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Dentist Peter M. McGarry dies at 72

Dr. Peter M. McGarry, a longtime St. Petersburg dentist and local sports figure, has died at 72.

Dr. McGarry, a skydiver who made hundreds of jumps and was one of the early-day barefoot water skiers at Cypress Gardens, died Sept. 15 at Mercy Medical Center in Durango, Colo., where he had his second home. The cause was cancer complications.

Dr. McGarry and Robert L. "Bob" Ulrich, former mayor of St. Petersburg, were hunting and fishing buddies.

He was "truly one of the outstanding sportsmen in our community, lifelong," Ulrich said. "He was an avid fisherman and avid hunter, and he and I hunted together for years and years."

When Dr. McGarry wasn't pursuing duck, turkey, squirrel, dove and quail from Citrus County to Lake Okeechobee, he became "one of the community's great personalities," Ulrich said.

A noted tarpon fisherman, Dr. McGarry won a division of the Jaycee Tarpon Roundup in 1962 with a 145-pounder. It was the largest tarpon caught by a resident angler and the largest caught from an outboard boat, 16 feet or under.

"He was Mr. Tarpon," said his daughter, Lynn McGarry Jewett. Other fisherman "would follow him around in a boat. They wanted to know his spots."

In the early 1960s, Dr. McGarry also set a world record with the catch of a sailfish on 12-pound line off St. Petersburg, said Dr. Jim Bradley, a fellow dentist who was in the boat with him.

"There was real good sailfishing off St. Pete back then," said Bradley.

One of the first endodontists in St. Petersburg, Dr. McGarry built his practice from scratch, opening in 1958 and retiring in 1996. He was a past president of the Pinellas County Dental Association.

Peter Michael McGarry was born in Bronxville, N.Y., and came to St. Petersburg as an infant with his family. He was the son of Mark R. McGarry, who ran the first big diaper service in the city, and Helen Gobel McGarry, a champion amateur golfer.

After attending local schools, he graduated from Lawrenceville Prep in New Jersey and studied for two years at Duke University. He graduated with honors in 1956 from Emory University School of Dentistry.

During service as a captain in the Army Dental Corps from 1956 to 1958, Dr. McGarry took postgraduate courses in endodontics at Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania and Temple University.

He was a member of the Dragon Club and the American and Florida Dental associations.

A brother, William G. "Bill" McGarry, died in 1993. Survivors include his wife of 33 years, Mary Ann; two daughters, Catherine McGarry and Lynn McGarry Jewett, both of Santa Barbara, Calif., a brother, retired Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Mark R., of Durango; a granddaughter; and a stepgranddaughter.

Hood Mortuary, Durango, was in charge. Local memorial arrangements are pending.

Information from Times files was used in this obituary.