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Epilogue: Long-time Brandon High agriculture teacher, fair entertainer, honorary mayor dies at 94

1926-2020: Nathaniel Storms was born in Zephyrhills, but spent most of his life teaching agriculture and volunteering in Brandon.

“Uncle Nat” delighted fair-goers at the Florida State Fair in Tampa in the 1990s, playing his harmonica and telling stories about farm life. The retired high school agriculture teacher would coax city folks into milking cows and pepper them with questions like, “How much fat is in 2 percent milk?”

Then he’d award them a tangerine and a prize ribbon that said, “I had an Ag Adventure.” He was at the fairs every day from opening to ending for a decade, said his daughter, Valerie Storms.

“He loved teaching,” she said. “And he was able to teach all ages about agriculture.”

Nathaniel “Nat” Storms died of heart failure on June 27 in a Brandon assisted-living facility. He was 94.

An aircraft mechanic in World War II, he then spent 31 years teaching agriculture at Brandon High School and serving as chapter advisor for the Future Farmers of America. Teaching was in his blood, said his youngest son, Steve Storms. Nat Storms’ father had been the supervisor of agricultural education for Hillsborough County.

Robert Rogers, 84, took Storms’ class in high school and said Storms was his favorite teacher.

Storms took his classes on field trips across Florida for plant shows and the like, Rogers said. On one trip, he said, Storms ran out of money and had to call his dad to wire him cash so he could get the boys home.

Roberts found out years later, he said, when Storms dropped by his plant nursery in Seffner. When Rogers asked why Storms didn’t ask his students for money, he just laughed. That wasn’t an unusual reaction.

“He just had a way with his humor,” Rogers said. “It helped with the learning.”

Nathaniel Storms pictured in the Brandon High School yearbook in 1971. [ Storms family. ]

Storms’ humor was on full display when he was elected the first honorary mayor of Brandon in 1959.

Brandon is an unincorporated area, not a city, so at an annual mayoral contest, townspeople ran for “mayor” based on how much money they raised for a local charity. He won the first contest with $500 in donations, his son said. Storms attended the event with a small pig named “Porky” and made him squeal at participants. “A pork chop in every pan” was his slogan.

For 62 years, the Zephyrhills native lived in the home that he and his wife, Alice, built on North Valrico Road. They named it the “Storms Shelter” because of the shady trees that cocooned it, Valerie Storms said, and the way it sheltered their family. Alice Storms died in 2018.

Nathaniel Storms pictured in his Gator memorabilia. [ Storms family ]

Storms volunteered after he retired. He picked up day-old bread around town for the Brandon Emergency Care Help Organization, his daughter said, and also served as its president.

“Because he’d been in the community so long, he knew the people to go to if they needed money or other things,” she said.

Nat Storms is survived by his daughters, Natalie Lightsey and Valerie Storms; his sons, Philip Storms, David Storms and Steve Storms; nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Valerie Storms is a chaplain at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. She’s also the only female ordained minister of the First Baptist Church in Brandon, she said, something her father was proud of.

She officiated at her father’s grave site and chose an acrostic of N-A-T-H-A-N-I-E-L to honor his memory.

“When I got to the H for honesty, I said ‘Now there’s a man in whom there is no guile,‘” she said. “If he said it, you could believe it.”

He also was a generous man, she said, even cosigning loans for houses and cars for former students. His word was enough get a break for those with bad credit.

“And if dad spoke up for them, for the most part, those people would follow through,” Valerie Storms said. “His word meant a lot.”