Published: April 28, 2020
TAMPA BAY, FLA. – Lawrence Franklin Dickson, 93, passed away unexpectedly March 23, 2020. Because there can be no service at this time, the following is his family’s loving tribute to his memory.
Larry was born in Tampa October 22, 1926, to Virginia Busbee Calhoun and Bascom Lane Dickson and was the youngest of their three sons. He grew up during the Great Depression and loved to laugh and reminisce about eating ketchup sandwiches, walking to school barefoot, wearing a red cape while playing in the B.C. Graham Elementary Harmonica Band, and engaging in every sport he could find or make up with his cherished brothers, Edwin and Calhoun.
Early life lessons of resilience and reliance on community for both survival and enjoyment informed his optimistic outlook and shaped his engaging personality. After graduating from Jefferson High School in 1944 as World War II was raging, Larry enlisted in the US Navy at the age of 17. His service included time at Camp Peary, Virginia guarding soldiers captured from German submarines that cruised the Atlantic coastline. Always seeing the humanity in others, he observed that they were mostly scared youngsters just like him, and that they never ever tried to escape. Next he was placed in a logistic support group and trained to operate LCPV (Landing Craft, Personnel, Vehicle) used extensively in amphibious landings during the war. When the war ended, he became part of the first wave of troops sent to Japan to join the Allied occupation. He survived a devastating typhoon while onboard ship off the coast of Okinawa, and would go on to spend one year in Sasebo before returning to the United States.
At the tender age of 19, with his military career over, Larry left for the University of Florida in a dilapidated car loaned to him by his father. He was halfway to Gainesville when the vehicle broke down. This unfortunate turn of events forced him to sit out the academic year, but as fate would have it, during that time Florida State College for Women voted to open its doors to men. The next fall, Larry happily headed to F.S.U., joining the inaugural men’s class and spending four enjoyable years on the majority female campus. He was a star on F.S.U.’s first men’s tennis and basketball teams, and for a time led the country in free throw shooting. After graduating with a degree in clinical psychology, he returned to Tampa, which was his home for the balance of his life. It was here that he met and married his beloved wife Nancy – their happy marriage spanning more than 65 years.
They made a formidable team, tackling many complicated projects together, including the design and construction of their beautiful New England summer house on the coast of Stonington, Conn. They shared the love of travel, museums, antiques, great food, and together they sought out new experiences, restaurants and adventures every week. In his last days, he discovered the Shell Key Preserve in Pinellas County where he delighted in observing the migratory habits of white pelicans and regular sightings of his favorite bird, the Great Blue Heron.
In their first years of married life, Larry worked numerous jobs to make ends meet. He eventually settled into the insurance industry, running his own successful brokerage for many years. However, it was the profession of real estate investment and development that brought him the deepest enjoyment and satisfaction. He and Nancy began investing in properties shortly after their marriage, even before they owned their own home. His enthusiasm for the pursuit of a great venture never waned, and he was actively engaged in projects and on the hunt for new ones until the end of his life. He served as a member of several advisory bank boards as well as The Salvation Army, and as one of the directors and founding members of the Westshore Alliance that laid the groundwork for the development of the Westshore area of Tampa. In business he had many guiding principles, but most vital to him were the imperatives to “Leave money on the table for the next person so it’s a good deal for both sides,” and “You never want to profit from other people’s misery.”
Larry was a compassionate and patient father to his two children, Mark and Carol. He saw the uniqueness in each of them, and by doing so brought out the best in them. While teaching them to drive, when a pothole was inadvertently hit, he would exclaim, “It takes a good driver to hit all the bumps!” He enthusiastically supported all they endeavored to do in life and championed them every step of the way. Larry imparted his lifelong passion for the game of tennis to Mark, serving as his mentor and coach on the ATP tour, and traveling to cheer him on in tournaments far and wide, including Wimbledon, the French and US Opens and countless others. He instilled in Mark his belief that sportsmanship and character were far more important qualities than winning. He shared his daughter Carol’s love for art history, accompanying her to museum and fine art exhibitions throughout the United States and Europe. Their most recent outing was to an origami exhibition at the St Petersburg Museum of Fine Arts where he patiently sat and folded a paper crane.
Through the years, Larry served his church as a choir member, deacon and Sunday School teacher, but perhaps his favorite role was that of usher. His family has suspicions that his devotion to ushering stemmed from the fact that he could greet and hug all of the ladies, while not required to slide into a pew until the service was half over. Larry was a man of deep and abiding faith, and he lived that faith every single day of his life. He dearly loved “The Beatitudes” from the book of Matthew, as he believed that his life was truly and completely blessed.
As grandchildren began to arrive, Larry was asked what he wanted to be called. He immediately said “The Coach.” Some of Coach’s greatest joys late in life were time spent with his four wonderful grandchildren and in the welcoming of his beautiful great-grandchildren. He was also a tender and devoted father-in-law to Karen, and served as a wise colleague and friend to his son-in-law Nic.
Larry began and ended most days with a healthy dose of chocolate. When selecting an entrée at a restaurant, he would often ask to view the dessert menu first so that he could make an informed decision. When he walked into a room, he lit it up with his presence. He breathed life into our days and never failed to lift our spirits. He truly made Tampa and the world a better, friendlier place. During these unsettled times we can all aspire to sustain Larry’s legacy of friendship, kindness and compassion by caring for others in need. We are grateful for each and every one of his wonderful friends, that you have cared about him so deeply, and that you have shared your lives with him and with our family.
Larry is survived by his wife Nancy Greco Dickson; two children, Mark Dickson (Karen) of Coral Gables, Fla., Carol Jahnke (Nic) of Middleburg, Va. and Tampa, Fla.; four grandchildren, Kristi Cowling (Slade), Kevin Dickson, Madeleine Jahnke and Nicholas Jahnke; two great-grandchildren, Harper and Gavin Cowling. Should friends desire, contributions in Larry’s name may be sent to the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches, Inc., PO Box 2000; Boys Ranch, FL 32064.
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