Like most improbably great adventures, Beverly Granger's started in a bar - 22 years ago in Los Angeles. She was a nurse, just 24. An actor named Dick Schaal took the stool beside her. He was 59.
He'd had a bad date, didn't want to go home. "Bring me a martini," he told the bartender, "and bring the lady anything she wants."
That led to a laugh, which led to a friendship, which led to a "laughing partnership" in an apartment building and a 1901 house on Indian Rocks Beach. The two rehabbed both and turned them into a "bed & bubbles" inn at 610 and 618 Gulf Blvd. that they named the Granger House.
Their adventure ended Sept. 12 with Beverly Granger's death from ovarian cancer at age 46. Dick Schaal is 81, and he's staying on.
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She was a radiant strawberry blond. When she married Joseph Mazza in 2003, she had already given up nursing and was running the inn. She painted the Granger House shocking pink. She bought pink sheets. She put hot tubs everywhere. Guests could watch Gulf sunsets between their toes. Instead of food, she served wine, flowers and candles. If two people couldn't find romance at the Granger House, Joe says, they just weren't trying.
Joe married Beverly during a beach sunset. Dick was part of the package. He lived with them as surrogate father/in-house celebrity. Dick was a founding member of Chicago's storied Second City comedy troupe. He'd acted in three decades worth of TV, going back to The Dick Van Dyke Show in the '60s, I Dream of Jeannie and The Mary Tyler Moore Show in the '70s (he was married to Rhoda's Valerie Harper), and Trapper John, M.D., in the '80s.
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Beverly was in cancer remission when she married Joe. When the disease flared in 2005, she, Joe and Dick fought it together.
She wouldn't let the cancer get in the way of what she wanted at the Granger House. Joe is a businessman who looks for business solutions. She was a caretaker. She looked at things viscerally. She talked to Joe about wanting a "feeling tone."
"I don't know how to explain it," she'd say, "but in my experience, it's a feeling tone that makes the place go."
Dick gave them a desk chair that once belonged to Lennie Bruce, a reminder to always think creatively.
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Around Labor Day, Beverly tried to break out of the Woodside hospice. She disconnected herself from a pain medication IV and a catheter. She stuffed her hair under a ball cap.
A nurse spotted a loose strand of hair as she made for the exit.
"She fought cancer for nine years," Joe says. "When you fight that long, you don't know any different.
"You don't back off."
Born: Aug. 4, 1963.
Died: Sept. 12, 2009.
Survivors: Husband, Joseph Mazza; two stepdaughters, Christina and Jacqueline; parents, William and Elaine Granger; brother Bill and his wife, Renee; niece, Chelsea; and close friend Dick Schaal.