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Ira A. Desper, prominent businessman

Ira A. Desper, a longtime Clearwater resident and prominent businessman, died Monday at Morton Plant Hospital. He was 77. Mr. Desper was born in Mercer, Mo., and moved to Clearwater in 1960 from Sarasota, where he had an accounting business.

He was a business associate for many years of J.O. Stone of Stone Buick. The two men went to high school together in Trenton, Mo., and Mr. Desper was married to Stone's only sister, Alida.

Stone said Tuesday that about six months after he started the Clearwater automotive dealership, he called Mr. Desper in Sarasota and asked him to join the business.

"I got him to come here and handle the office," Stone said. "He was a good businessman, my right-hand man all the way. He was a very straight, an honorable man. No one is going to miss him more than I am."

Mr. Desper's son, Stephen, who lives in Los Angeles, said Tuesday that his father was "interested in everything" and read profusely. "There were very few topics that he couldn't discuss with you and be surprisingly well-informed."

The younger Desper said his father was a compassionate, deeply religious man and helped many people and causes with money and advice. "He was not a person to wear his beliefs on his sleeve," he said. "His style was by doing."

"He touched a lot of lives," said his daughter, Suzanne Mayo of Crystal River. "He was a very non-judgmental person, always fair."

Mr. Desper was secretary-treasurer of Stone Buick and Preferred Auto Lease in Clearwater and Airco Golf Course in Largo. He also was a vice president and secretary-treasurer of Northgate Lincoln Mercury. He was financial director of Desper Products of Los Angeles.

He was a member of Grace Lutheran Church, Morton Plant Hospital Foundation and Clearwater Automobile Association. He was a 32nd degree Mason and a member of Scottish Rite Valley of Tampa and Hennepin Lodge 4 AF&AM, Minneapolis.

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, survivors include a brother, Cecil E., Largo.

Visitation is from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today at Rhodes Funeral Directors, Druid Chapel, 800 E Druid Road, Clearwater. Funeral service is at 11 a.m. Thursday at Grace Lutheran Church, 1812 N Highland Ave., Clearwater, followed by burial at Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park in Clearwater. Memorials should be given to the Morton Plant Hospital Foundation in Clearwater.

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