Bob Andelman knew his time was running out as a rare form of cancer ate away his last days.
“I’ve been the luckiest guy in life and loved every minute of it,” he told his wife, Tampa Bay Times news editor Mimi Andelman. She agreed. But she knew it wasn’t just luck.
“Bob was the most generous, loving person I’ve ever known,” she said. If he felt lucky, “I think a lot of that is because of all the love he got in return. I always joked with Bob that if he ever wanted to give up writing, he should be a therapist. He really listened to people. It mattered.”
Mr. Andelman, who lived in St. Petersburg, died Feb. 24 with his wife and their 23-year-old, Charlie, by his side. He was 59.
He was a presence in the Tampa Bay media scene since the early ‘80s, working on a variety of publications including the then-St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Tampa Tribune, Music, Focus and the Maddux Report. He was the editor of Tampa Bay Weekly and created the feature magazine Jump Monthly. His byline appeared in Newsweek and Business Week and he was the author or co-author of 16 books on topics from biographies to business and self-help to sports.
He was an early adapter of online publishing and podcasting with Mr. Media, a website he started in 1995. He was the editor and publisher of a small imprint, Mr. Media Books. Since 2007, he conducted more than 1,100 interviews on his Mr. Media podcast. He used the outlet to probe the minds of writers, musicians, celebrities and pop culture personalities. His interviewed Jackie Collins and Chris Pratt, Kirk Douglas and cartoonist Lynn Johnston of the comic strip For Better or For Worse.
Jeff Klinkenberg, an author and former writer for the Tampa Bay Times, was interviewed a number of times on Mr. Media. The two enjoyed a 35-year friendship.
“He was an exceptional interviewer, probably because he did his research beforehand," Klinkenberg said. “He also had a knack for asking offbeat questions that provoked very human responses.”
Mr. Andelman’s generosity was recounted by friends, children he coached in soccer, other journalists and authors. He stood out as supportive of other creators.
“In the very early part of my career, when I was most insecure, Bob wrote about me,” said Tampa Bay radio personality Mike Calta. “He was so genuinely complimentary that I started to feel like maybe I was good at this. I really needed that at that age.”
Eric Deggans, TV critic for National Public Radio, sought Mr. Andelman’s advice when he wanted to write a book proposal.
“I was amazed anyone can make a living writing books and freelancing the way he did,” Deggans said. “So the fact that he was always willing to share his knowledge with others, including me, is not as common as you might think among writers. He helped me figure out how to find an agent, he read over my book proposal. Bob was a special kind of selfless person in that way.”
Joe Childs, a former longtime editor with the Tampa Bay Times, met Mr. Andelman in the early ‘80s. He showed up in the Times Clearwater bureau looking for work as a correspondent, also called a stringer.
“My typical experience with stringers is they always wait for the editor to throw them the ball," Childs said. "Not Bob. He always had so many story ideas, and they were all really good story ideas, so I just took everything he’d give me.”
He grew up in North Brunswick, N.J., and moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1982 after graduation from the University of Florida.
He was a longtime coach of middle school girls soccer, and was known for his patience with young players. He loved pop music and pop culture. He admired entrepreneurs and captains of industry and was hired by many to write their company story.
His first venture into writing a book was Stadium for Rent, about the decades-long battle to bring a baseball team to Tampa Bay. That led to Built from Scratch, a book written with Home Depot founders Bernie Marcus and Arthur Blank, and The Wawa Way: How a Funny Name & 6 Core Values Revolutionized Convenience with CEO Howard Stoeckel.
Longtime friend Tony Doris, city hall reporter for the Palm Beach Post, called Mr. Andelman “the loyalest of friends.”
“I wanted to write books about corruption in South Florida and I couldn’t get any publishers to even look at them,” Doris said. “Bob didn’t hesitate. He had just started his small imprint and he became my publisher of two books.”
Freelancing is a “nerve-wracking" way of life without a steady paycheck, Doris said. “But he was a natural, with a ton of energy and so productive. I wrote two books and he wrote a dozen and had a podcast and all these high-powered industry people hiring him to write their stories.”
Following a string of business books, Mr. Andelman was interested in writing something fun. After a chance meeting with the agent of Will Eisner, the creator of the graphic novel genre, Mr. Andelman became his biographer. Will Eisner: A Spirited Life published in 2005, a few months after Eisner’s death at 87. It was hailed by comic artists and has been translated into Spanish and Italian.
In an article he wrote shortly after Eisner’s death, Mr. Andelman described Eisner:
“The thing you must know about Will Eisner is that he worked all the time. And yet he never worked at all. ... He preferred thinking and talking about his next project, the next book, new presentation concepts — anything that represented productivity.”
Said Doris: “That sounds just like Bob to me.”