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He pulled his family from poverty -- his way

Daniel Lubrano, the first in his family to go to college, was known for his big heart and blunt tongue.

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 3, 2002

DAVIS ISLANDS -- Daniel Lubrano's father, an Italian immigrant, struggled to feed and clothe his family on a factory worker's pay. Some nights, there wasn't enough food to go around, and hunger pains would gnaw at the boy's stomach as he closed his eyes to sleep.

Mr. Lubrano was determined his children and grandchildren would never know that ache. He would be the first in his family to go to college.

"He vowed he didn't want his family to grow up poor," said Thomas Morrill, Mr. Lubrano's oldest grandson and a third-generation college graduate. "His father worked in the box factory to make that dream a reality. He was undyingly grateful to his father."

Daniel Lubrano, a graduate of Tampa's Jesuit High School, attended Tulane University in Mississippi and became an ear, nose and throat specialist. Other than the few years he spent in the Army and Air Force, he practiced all his life in his hometown of Tampa.

He was 81 when he died Saturday of a heart attack at the Davis Islands home he shared with Velma, his wife of nearly 56 years, and his grandson's young family.

"He was very sharp right up until the end," said Morrill, 32, an assistant principal at Robinson High School.

Whatever Mr. Lubrano tackled, he did it wholeheartedly, said his daughter, Amelia Lubrano.

When he bought a boat years ago, he became a licensed sea captain. When Amelia Lubrano went away to college, her father learned to fly so the family could visit her on weekends.

"He wanted to learn all there was," she said. "He was an avid reader. He knew everything about everything."

He was known for his large heart and blunt tongue.

If he saw something wrong, he spoke up.

"He did not make small talk well," said his daughter.

Yet, if a patient couldn't pay, Mr. Lubrano waived the fee.

His favorite song and motto: "I did it my way."

"You really had to get to know him to love him," said Morrill. "Otherwise he'd seem crass."

At a Tuesday service at Myrtle Hill Cemetery, about 100 relatives and friends came to say goodbye, including Mr. Lubrano's childhood friends, Herman Ficarrota and Raymond Suarez.

For 50 years, the men had been part of a group that lunched at least weekly. In recent years, they met at Palma Ceia Golf & Country Club; previously, at La Tropicana in Ybor City.

Often, they included Morrill, even as a little boy.

Elders entertained him with tales of the Depression, along with stories of bolita, gangsters and cigar factories.

By the determination of his grandfather, he never knew hunger.

Mr. Lubrano's two sons, Danny and Andrew, preceded him in death. He leaves his wife, Velma; daughter, Amelia; four grandchildren, Thomas and Daniel Morrill and Kristen and Andrew Lubrano; and two great-grandchildren, Brooke and Alexis Morrill.

A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. May 11 at Jesuit High School's Chapel.

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