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Longtime Largo High principal dies at 80

Published May 21, 2002|Updated Sep. 3, 2005

Gene C. Chizik Sr., a longtime principal of Largo High School and a decorated war veteran, died Sunday (May 19, 2002) at Morton Plant Hospital. He was 80.

A native of Asheville, N.C., Mr. Chizik served in the Marine Corps during World War II and received a Bronze Star for combat in Okinawa.

He began his long career in the Pinellas County school system in 1948 as a teacher and football coach at what was then a combined Tarpon Springs Junior and Senior High School.

He had come to Pinellas County with boyhood chum and wartime buddy Bill Justice, who became a football coach at Clearwater High and later a Clearwater city commissioner.

When the two Tarpon Springs schools were separated, Mr. Chizik was named assistant principal of Tarpon Springs Junior High. After six years there, he became principal of Tarpon Springs High, a position he held for seven years.

In 1968, he took the job as principal of Largo High, and he and his wife Rita moved from Tarpon Springs to Clearwater.

Before retiring from Largo High in 1986 rather than be transferred to another school, Mr. Chizik was quoted in a St. Petersburg Times story saying that Largo "is a supportive, caring community. There never was another place I wanted to go."

After retiring, he served several years on the board of the Upper Pinellas Association for Retarded Citizens and for one season was the volunteer coordinator of CampWeCan, a camp for disabled children sponsored by the Clearwater parks and recreation department and UPARC.

Mrs. Chizik said Monday that she and her husband had traveled extensively in the past 10 years.

"We went to Europe five times and visited over 30 countries and took a lot of cruises," she said.

Mr. Chizik had enjoyed good health until he began experiencing a shortness of breath a few months ago, Mrs. Chizik said. "He had always been a healthy man. This just hit him suddenly."

Before that, he worked out in a gym three times a week and walked 2 miles on the days he wasn't at the gym.

He was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and was in intensive care for nearly a month, Mrs. Chizik said. When his kidneys failed and the doctors had done everything they could, she said, he was removed from life support.

In addition to his wife, survivors include a son, Gene Jr. of Auburn, Ala.; three daughters, Patricia Field-Sadd of Valencia, Calif., and Marianne Bouton and Rita Chizik, both of Atlanta; and four grandchildren, Jason Field of Valencia, and Kennedy D. Chizik, Landry G. Chizik and Eugene C. Chizik III, all of Auburn.

Visitation will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Moss-Feaster Funeral Homes & Cremation Services, Belcher Road Chapel, 693 S Belcher Road, Clearwater. A service will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at Light of Christ Catholic Church, 2176 Marilyn St., Clearwater. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to UPARC.

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