ST. PETE BEACH — He was a journalist, a historian, an author, a sketch artist, a real estate broker, a former city commissioner — but most people remember Frank T. Hurley Jr. best as a true gentleman who always had a kind word and who was quick to help his friends.
Dr. Ammette Bazian, a lifelong friend, said she developed a crush on Hurley at the tender age of 7 when visiting her uncle, a friend of Hurley's father, in the early 1960s.
At the time, Hurley was in his 30s and would frequently come to her house to eat a breakfast of bananas, Ovaltine and wheat germ.
"He was knowledgeable, personable, worldly, successful and down-to-earth all at the same time. He was a wonderful, lovely man," Bazian said, recalling how he would frequently tease her. "I never expected that he would ever die. He was bigger than life."
Hurley, 89, died Wednesday at the Brentwood Senior Living Community in St. Petersburg after a long illness.
"My strongest memory of Frank is meeting him on the beach where we would talk and reminisce about the town and its history," said Spencer Lucas, who also had known Hurley from his childhood.
Hurley also was a devoted swimmer, dipping into the Gulf of Mexico every day.
Lucas, who is president of the Friends of the Gulf Beaches Historical Museum, collaborated with him on many of Hurley's history projects.
Hurley wrote several books about the city: Pass-a-Grille Vignettes: Times Past, Tales Remembered, and Surf, Sand and Postcard Sunsets: A History of Pass-a-Grille and the Gulf Beaches, as well as a book containing a collection of his sketches. Hurley donated his books to the museum, which continues to publish them.
Hurley's brother, Ken, remembers how Hurley refused to give up his 50-year-old Royal typewriter, which he used for all his writing.
Ralph Lickton, a designer who specializes in historic houses, credits Hurley with helping him to establish his business in Pass-a-Grille.
"He began referring clients to me in the 1960s," Lickton said.
When Lickton fought against over-development in nearby Tierra Verde, Hurley helped with research about endangered historical Indian sites.
Hurley served on the St. Petersburg Beach City Commission in the mid 1960s, and remained active throughout his life in numerous community organizations and historic boards.
Melinda Pletcher, a current city commissioner who also works in Hurley's real estate office, recalled how Hurley emphasized "how important it was to maintain relationships with industry professionals."
Former Mayor Mike Finnerty remembers the Christmas parties at Hurley's office.
"He would sit in the corner in his rocking chair and would always have a story or make you laugh," Finnerty said.
Harry Metz, a former city commissioner, said Hurley "was Pass-a-Grille and loved its history. Now, if that history isn't written down, it will be gone with Frank."
Although Hurley was born in Washington, D.C., served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II in the Pacific Theater, and lived and worked as a journalist for several years in both St. Petersburg at the Evening Independent and at several papers in California, St. Pete Beach, and more specifically Pass-a-Grille, was his true home.
In 1964, Hurley took over his father's real estate business in Pass-a-Grille, Frank T. Hurley Associates.
But he continued to write, penning book after book about the history of Pass-a-Grille.
"My uncle was always a newspaper man and was a staunch advocate of beaches," said Sean Hurley, who now runs Hurley's real estate office.
Hurley gave up his lifelong bachelorhood at the age of 73 when he married his wife, Betty, a close friend for more than 25 years.
Jay Anderson, a close friend, recalls how Hurley and his wife would walk holding hands in the mornings in Pass-a-Grille.
"He would joke that they weren't holding hands. They were holding each other up," Anderson said. "They were the cutest couple. She was the love of his life."
In addition to his wife, Hurley is survived by his brother, Ken, as well as by his nephew, Sean, and his niece, Kathleen, and their children.
Nearly 100 people attended the Sunset Bell Ringing ceremony at the Paradise Grille on Thursday to honor Hurley's passing.
A viewing will be held at the Beach Memorial Chapel, 301 Corey Avenue next week. The date and time will be announced on the chapel's website: beachmemorial.com.
Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at the St. Andrews Lutheran Church, 1901 62nd Ave S, St. Petersburg.