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  1. Life & Culture

Clearwater lawyer was an avid Bucs fan, community volunteer

Jerry Figurski devoted time to programs, including one for the developmentally disabled.
Jerry Figurski worked as Pasco County Attorney before going into private practice with Figurski and Harrill. He volunteered with many community organizations.
Jerry Figurski worked as Pasco County Attorney before going into private practice with Figurski and Harrill. He volunteered with many community organizations. [ Courtesy Melody Figurski ]
Published May 9

At Jerry Figurski’s funeral, Tony Griffith ran into another lawyer he knew.

Griffith was there because Figurski was like a father figure to him, he said, an example of the kind of lawyer he wanted to be.

His colleague was there for the same reason.

“It turns out that he did that for a lot of people.”

Figurski, who died April 2 at 77 of natural causes, served as assistant Pinellas County attorney, Pasco County attorney and retired from private practice in 2019. His career included major cases that shaped Tampa Bay, from the “Water Wars” in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s to an ordinance outlawing nudity in the late ‘70s.

While Figurski’s career was public, he devoted the time when he wasn’t working to cheering for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and supporting community organizations including ARC Tampa Bay, which supports people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“Jerry really loved life,” wife Melody said. “And he loved participating.”

Jerry Figurski and daughter Tracy at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Wife Melody figures the family missed about 10 home games since the team started playing.
Jerry Figurski and daughter Tracy at a Tampa Bay Buccaneers game. Wife Melody figures the family missed about 10 home games since the team started playing. [ Courtesy Melody Figurski ]

Finding home in Florida

The Figurski family moved from Ohio to Florida in 1975 and worried it would be hard to get settled.

“What we discovered was simple,” Figurski wrote in an autobiography he made for family. “We were welcomed in Clearwater by individuals, women, men, and children … Life was good and I believed without questions that God was good.”

The Figurskis had two children — daughter Tracy, who has developmental disabilities, and son David.

The family got involved with UPARC, now Arc Tampa Bay, to find schooling and eventually a group home for their daughter.

Since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers formed, the family has only missed a handful of home games.

“We suffered through a lot,” Melody Figurski said, “but we loved the Bucs and never stopped loving the Bucs.”

Melody and Jerry Figurski and son David Figurski at the 2003 Super Bowl.
Melody and Jerry Figurski and son David Figurski at the 2003 Super Bowl. [ Courtesy Melody Figurski ]

Mr. Clearwater

In his autobiography, Figurski wrote about the role he played in laws that helped shape Tampa Bay in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s.

“One of the major county issues was what was known as the ‘Water Wars,’” he wrote. “Three Counties, Pinellas, Pasco, Hillsborough and three Cities, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, and Tampa needed additional availability of water and each of the aforementioned governmental units were searching in those above-referenced sites to buy land to provide more water service availability to its own people. Litigation ensued and the Water Wars continued. Ultimately, through the tough work of Senator Jack Latvala, a Pinellas County Senator, the Tampa Bay Water Authority brought together all of these governmental units to quell the Water Wars with a board to govern and a staff to operate the water systems as one for the benefit of all.”

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Another:

“The Pinellas County Sheriff met with me desiring to have a County Ordinance to prohibit nudity in bars and other places ... A number of years later, I received a call from a Pinellas County Assistant County Attorney. He was directed to challenge ladies who sold hot dogs on the side of roadways while being dressed in thongs. The attorney asked for advice based on the Nudity Ordinance approved years before. I did not participate other than to discuss the matter. The hot dog stands were eliminated.”

Related: Thong-clad hot dog girls once ruled Florida streets. Where did they go?

Figurski eventually went into private practice, served as president of Clearwater’s Bar Association and on Clearwater’s Community Development Board. He was someone who was on top of every detail, said Arlen Tillis, senior vice president of Tibbetts Lumber.

“I’ve been in Pasco all my life, and I think that Jerry was just one of those types of people that when you went to the county, knew everyone,” Tillis said.

In 2013, the Figurskis were recognized as Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater for their volunteer work.

Tony Griffith got to know Figurski through Leadership Pinellas, and eventually the two were part of a Friday morning Bible study and prayer group.

Near the end of Figurski’s life, he and Griffith took walks through Figurski’s neighborhood, and Figurski always pointed out his neighbors and the good things they did, Griffith said.

By the end of each walk, Figurski had him believing that there are a lot of good people in the world.

The Figurskis were named Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater in 2013.
The Figurskis were named Mr. and Mrs. Clearwater in 2013. [ Courtesy Melody Figurski ]

Poynter news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story.

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Our weekly newsletter, How They Lived, is a place to remember the friends, neighbors and Tampa Bay community members we’ve lost. It’s free. Just click on the link to sign up. Know of someone we should feature? Please email Kristen at khare@poynter.org.

• • •

Read other Epilogues:

Florida’s ‘Manatee Lady,’ Helen Spivey, died at 94

Dentistry was a man’s job. She made it her own.

‘Chapel of Love’ singer Rosa Lee Hawkins dies in Tampa at 76

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