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Immigrants' son born, raised in Ybor of old

Martino Muley, who loved food and baseball caps, worked 30 years for Joe & Son Grocery in Ybor.

© St. Petersburg Times
published May 17, 2002

OAKFORD PARK -- Martino Muley was 12 when his father died, leaving his mother with 10 boys.

There seemed to be no choice: Martino quit school and went to work as a meat cutter in Ybor City.

And when his youngest brother cried for a toy at Christmas, he took the money he'd saved for shoes and bought a toy. He placed cardboard inside his shoes to cover the holes.

It's a story his family shared last week as they remembered the man they called husband, father, uncle and friend.

Mr. Muley was 86 when he died May 9 at St. Joseph's Hospital of complications from cancer.

"He was a beautiful man. He always smiled," said Felix Lopez, a relative by marriage who knew Muley nearly 50 years.

"He loved life and everything about it," Lopez said.

Muley, the son of Italian immigrants, was born and raised in Ybor City. He called Tampa home, leaving only to be a baker in the Army.

He was known for his big smile and baseball caps. It was rare to see him without a hat.

The family's home -- in Oakford Park, northeast of Kennedy Boulevard and MacDill Avenue -- was usually full of food and laughter, said his only child, Linda Switzer. He made a great Cuban sandwich.

"He loved food -- he was Italian," said his daughter.

Mr. Muley worked 30 years at Joe & Son Grocery in Ybor. He retired about 20 years ago after he found out he had lung cancer. For years, it looked like he had beaten the disease.

Not that he stayed still in retirement. He worked at Linda and Mark Switzer's music business, the Florida Arts School on Nebraska Avenue.

More than 50 music students showed up for his memorial service. They recalled his words of encouragement and sang songs in his honor.

One of Muley's duties was making the daily bank deposits for the business.

"He'd corner the guards at Central Bank and tell them his stories whether they wanted to hear it or not," his daughter said.

He would talk about the Ybor of his youth and the grocery business.

Linda Switzer recently took him for a drive down Seventh Avenue in Ybor.

"His Ybor City was no longer," she said.

But he appreciated today's Ybor.

"He was really happy to see that it was revitalized," she said.

In addition to his daughter, Muley leaves Angela, his wife of 52 years, and his youngest brother, Peter, of California.

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