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Developer, arts patron Eugene Sitton dies

(ran PW, PS editions of Pasco Times)

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

Eugene Sitton, a local real estate developer and ardent supporter of the arts, died Saturday at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater. He was 75.

Sitton and his wife, Donna, were funded life members of Ruth Eckerd Hall and sustaining members and active supporters of the Dunedin Fine Art Center.

"We've all kind of lost somebody pretty great in our community," said Nancy McIntyre, executive director of the Dunedin Fine Art Center. "Essentially Eugene was just a delightful man. He had a spirit for life."

Sitton and his wife supported the center with their presence as well as contributions, McIntyre said. And through that interaction, McIntyre said, she came to appreciate his intelligence as well as his sense of humor.

"What I liked about him was his devilishness. He would sit with me at an art opening and we'd both just giggle," she said.

Sitton and his wife were known internationally for producing orchid hybrids, and they won 10 awards for the Phalaenopsis Eugene Sitton from the American Orchid Society, which named the flower Best White Orchid with Red Lip.

The champion orchids were often displayed at the art center, McIntyre said.

Sitton, a Dunedin resident, was a commercial real estate developer in Pinellas County and an active partner in ABS Properties and Sitton Properties. Sitton and his wife developed the Campus Walk Plaza on Drew Street at U.S. 19 and owned and operated the Best Western and Econo Lodge hotels at that site.

Along with retired Eckerd College basketball coach Jim Harley, the couple established the Harley-Sitton Scholarship, which supports the school's basketball program and helps it compete for the country's top athletes.

Sitton was born in Van, W.Va. He was an Army veteran of World War II and worked as a Lincoln Mercury dealer in Mount Vernon, Ohio, before moving here.

He received the Eckerd College basketball Distinguished Service Award and the Eckerd College Triton Spirit Award. He was named an Otterbein College Honorary Alumnus and was inducted into the Eckerd College Athletic Hall of Fame. He was a member of the Otterbein College Presidents' Club and the Presidents' Colloquium at Eckerd College.

Survivors include his wife of 39 years, Donna; a son, Owen Eugene, Dunedin; a daughter, Kathy Brower, Cora, Wyo.; three sisters, Betty Lundy, Palm Harbor, Nadine Sitton, Charleston, W.Va., and Charlotte Gray, Van; two brothers, Lewis Jr., Uneeda, W.Va., and the Rev. William Paul, Clarksville, Tenn.; four grandchildren; and 10 nieces and nephews. Curlew Hills Funeral Home, Palm Harbor, is in charge of arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions to the Harley-Sitton Scholarship at Eckerd College or the Sitton Scholarship at Otterbein College in Ohio.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Curlew Hills Funeral Home, 1717 Curlew Road, Palm Harbor.

A service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at the home. Interment will follow at Curlew Hills Memorial Gardens.