WEEKI WACHEE — Thomas Lashinsky had dementia and stopped driving months ago, but he could still make it to Publix on his own.
The longtime Glen Lakes resident made regular trips from his home on Ashley Drive to the Shoppes at Glen Lakes, cruising along an access road and avoiding U.S. 19, friends and family members said.
It's unclear, then, why the 84-year-old Lashinsky was driving his golf cart on U.S. 19 near Hexam Road on Tuesday afternoon, roughly a mile north of the shopping center.
"It's something I don't know if we could ever answer," his son, Donald Lashinsky, said Wednesday.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Thomas Lashinsky was traveling in the outside lane when he suddenly veered left, into the path of a Ford pickup in the inside lane. He was thrown from the cart and died later at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point in Hudson.
The driver of the pickup, 62-year-old Casey Kevin Stargel of Brooksville, told Bay News 9 that he started to slow down when he saw the golf cart but didn't have time to stop once it turned into his path.
If Lashinsky was headed to Publix and got lost, it would be a surprise to his son.
Donald Lashinsky, of Fort Ann, N.Y., visited his father about a six weeks ago, staying for a week. The elder Lashinsky suffered memory problems and grew frustrated when he couldn't get his mouth to say what his brain was thinking, but he didn't seem disoriented, his son said.
A recent divorcee, Thomas Lashinsky lived alone and seemed to be taking care of himself just fine, his son said. The avid golfer and bowler ironed his clothes, trimmed the hedges, kept the house impeccably clean and took out the trash.
"I didn't see any confusion in him," Donald Lashinsky said.
A year or so ago, though, Lashinsky suffered "an episode" that prompted him and his then-wife, Ruth, to decide he shouldn't drive anymore.
"I don't know how that all came about," Donald Lashinsky said.
Thomas Lashinsky's Florida license expires in December, and his driving record is blemish free, state records show.
He had ventured onto 19 at least once before, according to Nancy Denney, a family friend and Glen Lakes neighbor. Denney said a clubhouse worker saw him driving the cart along 19, south of Glen Lakes, and made sure he got home safely.
"There were a lot of people keeping an eye on him," Denney said.
A native of Daisytown, Pa., Lashinsky was the youngest of 11 children, the son of a coal miner and a homemaker, according to his son. He served in the Air Force and later worked as a manager for Grumman Aerospace Corp.
"He was very much a gentleman's gentleman," his son said.
The father of four divorced his first wife about 30 years ago, remarried and moved from Long Island to Florida after retiring. The couple researched golf communities on both coasts before deciding to build a home in Glen Lakes, his son said.
Lashinsky married Ruth, a friend, after his second wife died.
At one point after the dementia diagnosis, Lashinsky reluctantly toured a group home and quickly dismissed the idea, Donald Lashinsky said. He wanted to stay in Glen Lakes.
"He wasn't going to leave there for anywhere," he said.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect first name for Donald Lashinsky.
News researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Tony Marrero can be reached at [email protected].