Arts and symphony benefactor Dick Minck dies at 84

Published Dec. 21, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — Aside from the top hat he sometimes wore, jeweled cuff links he had made and a Corum watch with a face to match his Excalibur automobile, Dick Minck set himself apart with a piece of formal wear none could imitate — hand-painted tuxedo shirts reminiscent of Salvador Dali.

That kind of panache made him hard to miss at galas for the arts.

But the area's museums and orchestras knew Mr. Minck provided a lot more than a reliable dose of pizazz. Together with his wife, the late Helen James Minck, he was a big reason those institutions have stayed afloat.

Mr. Minck was a 57-year-old bachelor in the mid 1980s when he married Helen, the widow of Raymond James Financial founder Robert James, who died in 1983. Theirs was a true partnership, friends and relatives say, especially in the Mincks' mutual commitment to the arts.

Mr. Minck died Dec. 12, nearly a year after the death of his wife. He was 84.

Despite his flash, Mr. Minck and his wife were quiet givers.

"Dick and Helen helped us acquire major works of art," said spokesman David Connelly of the Museum of Fine Arts. "They didn't require much recognition or solicitation. They kind of knew what they wanted to support and they did it."

The couple also contributed heavily to the Dali Museum and had endowed three chairs in the Florida Orchestra.

Richard Allen Minck grew up in Bluffton, Ohio. He lasted just three days in his first art class before his teacher made him stand in the cloakroom for refusing to copy the works she put before the class.

"I found it more interesting to elaborate," he told a hometown newspaper two years ago.

Later, an art professor at Ohio State University told him to discover what he wanted to make out of a hunk of clay and "just let it out."

After a sojourn to California, where he mingled with movie stars, Mr. Minck taught art at Ohio State and hosted an instructional television show for more than 20 years.

The marriage ushered in a new phase of life. "Dick became a close member of our family," said Tom James, the executive chairman of Raymond James Financial.

Mr. Minck enjoyed making jewelry for his wife and painting tuxedo shirts, which he gave away or sold for $300 and up. "I was very proud to be one of the people he painted those for," said longtime investor William Hough.

In later years, Mr. Minck learned how to blow glass.

His wife's death in December 2011 seemed to mark the beginning of a downturn in his own health, family members on both sides believe. Before that, he had been riding his bicycle 20 miles.

"The speed of his decline was surprising to everybody," said Tom James. "It caught us off guard."