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Spring Hill's 'driving force' dies

Hugh McGeehan, a Realtor, activist, education booster and devoted family man who played a key role in Spring Hill's creation, was 83.

© St. Petersburg Times
published December 6, 2002

Hugh Connell McGeehan, a longtime Realtor who helped create Spring Hill, died Wednesday (Dec. 4, 2002) at Bayonet Point Hospital after struggling with a long illness. He was 83.

Mr. McGeehan moved to Hernando County in 1967 as a member of Deltona Corp.'s original sales force. His job: help turn more than 15,000 acres of wide sandy nothingness and a few palm trees into a suburbanized community called Spring Hill. He was also one of Spring Hill's first residents.

"He's been one of the driving forces of this area for a long time," said Realtor Patricia Fleck, who has known McGeehan since 1968, when she moved here with her husband who also worked for Deltona Corp.

Mr. McGeehan was born in Hazelton, Pa., in 1919. He was a graduate of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., and lived in New York for a number of years.

But he abandoned the Northeast for south Florida in 1952, said his wife, Margaret M. McGeehan, whom he married in New York in 1948.

In his early years in Florida, Mr. McGeehan worked for an auto supply firm, a job which allowed him to travel throughout Florida and Georgia in the 1950s, he told the Times in 1987.

He later joined Deltona Corp., which had built a residential development near Sanford, run by brothers Frank, Robert and Elliott Mackle.

He agreed to move to the new Spring Hill development and joined general manager Harold Zopp, who died in 1992, in spearheading Deltona's new gulf-side project.

"Spring Hill has changed so much," said Margaret McGeehan. "It was just a few model homes and dirt roads and so on. But he could put you on any lot and block on Spring Hill."

In 1972, the McGeehans started a resale subsidiary office of Deltona Corp. called Spring Hill Realty. Eleven years later they broke away and started McGeehan & Sons Inc., and joined Coldwell Banker two years later in 1985.

While Spring Hill boomed throughout the 1970s and 1980s, making Hernando one of the fastest-growing counties in Florida, Mr. McGeehan took an active role in fostering the community's growth. Education became his passion.

"He always told me, he didn't consider himself a salesman, he considered himself an educator," said Fleck, who owns Fleck Real Estate.

He taught real estate courses at Pasco-Hernando Community College since 1974, and was one of the founding board members of the Pasco-Hernando Community College Foundation, said David Barzelay, the foundation's executive director.

He also was a member of the Saint Leo College board of trustees.

His son, Dennis McGeehan, who is principal of Central High School, said his father's interest in education influenced his decision to commit to that profession.

"It was always something he emphasized, education and involvement in the community," Dennis McGeehan said.

Mr. McGeehan briefly served as a County Commissioner for several months in 1982, appointed by then-Gov. Bob Graham to replace Commissioner John Magner, who resigned because of ill health. McGeehan later lost an election bid for that seat in November 1982.

He also helped found the Hernando County Association of Realtors, said Lisa Gurske, its executive vice president. He was instrumental in persuading Realtors to work together to produce the county's multiple listing services.

But his great love was his family, his wife said. With five children and 17 grandchildren, Mr. McGeehan guarded them vigilantly. Over the years, he declined media requests to interview him at his home, in an effort to protect his family.

"His family and his grandchildren, they were his pride and joy," Margaret McGeehan said.

A viewing is scheduled at Brewer & Sons Funeral Home in Brooksville from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. A burial service will be at St. Theresa's Catholic Church at 9:30 a.m. Monday.

-- Information from Times files contributed to this report.

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