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George Gage, Tampa man killed in Bayshore crash, remembered as kind, faithful

The 70-year-old retired financial trust officer lived an exemplary life, friends said. He was struck and killed Thursday morning by a driver who police say was drunk.
George Gage, 70, is a retired financial trust officer. Tampa police said he was walking on the Bayshore Boulevard sidewalk when he was fatally struck Thursday by an impaired driver speeding in a pickup truck. A memorial was set up along the sidewalk on Friday. [Tampa Bay Times]

TAMPA — George Gage woke up Thursday and read three chapters from his Bible.

The Sunday school group he led with his friend, Steve Gardner, was part of a project to read the holy book over the course of one year. They were on Genesis. Gage also wrote a check to Hyde Park United Methodist Church for his monthly pledge, Gardner said. Then he decided to head out.

“He told his wife, ‘It’s a beautiful day,’ " Gardner said. “ ‘I’m just going to go for a walk.’ "

He never came home. Gage, 70, a retired financial trust officer, was struck by a driver who police said was impaired and speeding in a pickup through traffic on Bayshore Boulevard.

Related: Whiskey, marijuana and speed. New details revealed about deadly Bayshore Boulevard crash.

Gage was thrown from the sidewalk into Hillsborough Bay. The driver, Benjamin Douglas Ehas, 31, faces charges of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, according to an arrest report. Investigators said his blood-alcohol content level was 0.234, almost three times the limit under which Florida law presumes someone is impaired.

Gardner and his wife were set to have dinner with Gage and his wife, Susan, at 6 p.m. Thursday. They were planning a fall trip to Portugal and Spain. Gardner, a Tampa lawyer, found out at 4:30 p.m. that his friend had died.

“George was just a really good guy, just a good and decent man, the kind the world needs to have more of," he said.

Gage had retired several years ago from Northern Trust. He had two adult children. The Gages are a well-known family in South Tampa and had lived here for decades. An old online resume for George Gage shows he started working for First Florida Bank in 1974.

Friends said he loved to cook. Gardner remembered how Gage packaged up meals for friends in South Tampa when they were sick.

Last night, Gardner recalled, Gage’s wife reflected: “As tragic as it is, he had no regrets.”

Their church issued a statement Friday.

“He was a faithful and active member of this church and he will be greatly missed," said the Rev. Magrey deVega, of Hyde Park United Methodist. "Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we would prefer not to divulge more information than that.”

Cars lined up at the Gage home in Tampa on Friday, with people trickling toward the door bearing casserole dishes. Women in the foyer told reporters that Susan Gage did not want to speak about the crash.

Related: Pedestrian struck, killed by truck on Bayshore Boulevard. Tampa police arrest driver.

Cynthia Gandee Zinober, executive director of the Henry B. Plant Museum, recalled the late 2000s when Gage led the museum’s board. Sometimes people had differing visions, she said, but Gage always navigated conversations with charisma and balance.

“He really was always able to listen," she said.

Zinober also remembered attending a Gage birthday party, and how delighted he was to make his own cake.

Jim Harnish, the retired former pastor of Hyde Park United Methodist, recalled Friday his first impression of Gage many years ago, at a Sunday school luncheon in a Tampa home. One man there, Harnish said, was losing his eyesight, but only people very close to him knew.

Gage quietly and discreetly led the man through the buffet, helping him manage his plate and identify the dishes.

“I never saw anything in George that seemed mean or unkind," Harnish said. “He’s one of those rare people that it’s hard for us to imagine that anybody ever got angry with him.”

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird and staff writer Christopher O’Donnell contributed to this report.