LAND O’ LAKES — Robert “Bobby” Mavis loved baseball and loved being a dad.
Those two passions converged when the 40-year-old father of three and Mets fan hatched a plan with his son Evan to visit baseball stadiums across America. They made their first out-of-town trip this past summer to Marlins Park in Miami. Their next trip would be in the spring to Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Those father-son excursions came to an end in last week’s fiery pile-up on northbound Interstate 75.
Mavis was driving home from work on Nov. 13 when a semitrailer truck behind him failed to slow for stopped traffic. The ensuing chain-reaction crash saw the truck end up on top of Mavis’ Mercedes. Then both vehicles caught fire.
The father died at the crash scene, not far from his family’s Land O’ Lakes home.
A week later, his loved ones are still adjusting to their new reality. The man they described as a kind, loving husband, father, brother and son is gone.
“He really is a great dad and that’s the hardest part of all of this,” his wife Elizabeth Mavis said through tears as she talked about her husband in the present tense. “All of the things that the kids are going to want their dad for, all the things they’re going to need him for, he’s not going to be there.”
The Florida Highway Patrol on Wednesday released Bobby Mavis’ name and the name of the semi-trailer truck driver who also died in the crash: Dwayne Edward McCormick, 54, of Evington, Va. He was driving for James E. Owen Trucking, Inc. located in Forest, Va., troopers said.
Mavis is a native of Boonton, N.J. and one of three siblings. He was 8 when his family moved to New Port Richey. He played Little League baseball there and his brother Eric played football.
“We lived at the field,” recalled Eric Mavis, 37, of New Port Richey. “My mom was always the team mom and our dad coached. We grew up in a very tight knit community of sports. We made family friends we’ll have forever."
Bobby Mavis graduated from Gulf High School, where he played second base.
More than a decade later, he met Elizabeth for their first date in 2008 at then-Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. He brought along Kyle, his 6-year-old son from a previous relationship. Bobby and Elizabeth Mavis were married two years later.
“He’s so charismatic," she said. "People were just naturally drawn to him.”
The couple had Evan, now 8, and daughter Kendall, 5. The father’s online obituary features a slideshow that shows the family smiling at Rays games, at Kyle’s high school graduation, and on trips to Saint Thomas and San Juan.
Bobby Mavis worked as a purchasing manager in the Tampa office of Phoenix Metals, a Georgia metal supply company. His outgoing personality was appreciated by coworkers and an asset on the job, said general manager Dan Roberts.
“He was just a good people person and could find a way to communicate even with some of the toughest people to communicate with,” Roberts said. “He could always find that path.”
As part of the family’s normal routine, the father would drop off Evan and Kendall at before-school care on his way to work. Every day, to get home, he headed north on I-75 north to State Road 54.
The crash took place just a few miles before that exit.
The Highway Patrol is still investigating the crash. Troopers are still trying to determine why the truck driver failed to stop in time.
Elizabeth Mavis said her family doesn’t know anything more about the crash than what they’ve seen in the news. She has tried to avoid watching TV coverage of what happened.
She said Kyle Mavis, now 18, has thrown himself into work and his studies at Pasco-Hernando Community College. Evan, who plays in Little League just like his dad did, struggles the most in the quiet moments. He worries about keeping his baseball skills sharp now that his father is gone.
“He told me he wants to keep his mind busy so he doesn’t have to worry about things,” Elizabeth Mavis said.
Kendall is still too young to understand the permanence of the loss, the mother said.
“It’s almost better that that her world is still full of unicorns and rainbows,” Elizabeth Mavis said, “but she still says, ‘I miss Daddy.’”
As they cope with grief and plan for Friday’s funeral, Mavis’ family has been bolstered by an outpouring of support. A close friend of the family, Sarah Meinerz, created a GoFundMe page for them. By Wednesday, the page had surpassed its $20,000 goal. The new goal is $50,000.
“This loss will never fully heal for this family, but the generosity of those who donate will certainly help lift the financial burdens of what comes next,” Meinerz wrote on the page.
Along with financial support, friends, co-workers and acquaintances have visited to pay respects, offer help and share stories and tears.
“It is so overwhelming the generosity and kindness that everyone has shown us,” said Elizabeth Mavis, a fifth-grade teacher at Miles Elementary in Tampa. “My husband has definitely touched a lot of hearts and a lot people. We have such an amazing support system."
There’s no replacing a husband and father, Eric Mavis said, but the family’s support system will step up as best it can.
One goal, he said, is to keep taking Evan to baseball stadiums around the country, just as his father intended. Said the uncle:
“We’re definitely going to try to keep that going so his son can live out his dream that he planned with his dad."