BROOKSVILLE — Harvey F. Waite, a former New York state trooper and the husband of U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, died at his home Tuesday (Aug. 19, 2008) after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 68.
His wife's office announced his death in a statement about 1:30 p.m. He died earlier in the morning surrounded by his family, a spokesman for the Republican congresswoman said.
Brown-Waite revealed her husband's illness Feb. 29 to explain her absence from Congress. Since his diagnosis, Mr. Waite underwent chemotherapy but took a turn for the worse in the last few days.
Brown-Waite considered not running for re-election this fall, but aides say it was her husband who told her to stay in the race.
The couple married in 1978 but knew each other dating back to their high school days in the Albany, N.Y., area. It was her second marriage.
Mr. Waite served in the Army from 1958 to 1961, stationed in Japan. He then spent a lengthy career with the New York State Police.
After he retired, the couple moved to Florida in 1984 and settled in Hernando County in 1995.
He owned a vending business named Hungry Harv's and worked as an investigator with the local public defender's office.
Mr. Waite also was involved in a number of local organizations, including the Nature Coast British Car Club with his 1959 MGA convertible roadster.
Through his wife, he also became active in local Republican politics. He rarely made headlines, but when he did, it often distracted from his wife's campaigns.
In 2002, during her first bid for Congress, he vandalized and stole campaign signs belonging to her incumbent opponent, Karen Thurman, who lost the election and now serves as the chairwoman of the state Democratic Party. Prosecutors declined to file charges but it prompted a public apology from Mr. Waite and his wife.
The same election, a local businessman and a retired sheriff suggested that Brown-Waite used her political clout to help draw customers to her husband's vending business, a charge she denied.
In 2006, a scuffle ensued when one of her Democratic opponents, John Russell, confronted Mr. Waite after a political forum. Russell denied he tried to grab Mr. Waite but said the congresswoman's husband made a nasty remark as he left the stage.
Ana Trinque, the chairwoman of the Hernando County Republican Party, met Mr. Waite through local political circles. She also is helping the couple sell their sprawling property off Spring Lake Highway.
She said Mr. Waite remained positive, but also realistic, after his diagnosis.
"He was such a sweetheart," she said. "He was always upbeat and he was very enthusiastic."
Known for his good humor, she recalled his love for playing cards and propensity to tell stories.
"Everything was a story for Harvey," she said. "He always had something funny to talk about."
Mr. Waite is survived his wife, three children, four grandchildren and his sister and brother.
John Frank can be reached at email@example.com or (352) 754-6114.