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Beloved coach and respected silversmith

R.T. Sadd, a proponent of youth sports in Tampa, was one of the last expert silversmiths in the country.

© St. Petersburg Times
published April 18, 2003

TOWN 'N COUNTRY -- If you met R.T. Sadd when you were a youngster, you probably thought of him as an energetic coach dedicated to football, baseball and kids.

"He just loved coaching," said Kirby Wilson, who played Pee Wee Football under Mr. Sadd in the late 1960s. "He was the assistant coach, and he was at every practice, rain or shine. I don't remember my head coach's name, but I remember Mr. Sadd."

Mr. Sadd, who died April 9 at age 68, was indeed an inveterate sportsman. Besides coaching, he was instrumental in starting Tampa Pee Wee Football (now Tampa Youth Football) and the T & C Shimberg Youth Pony Baseball League. He was a certified umpire and officiated local high school games. He was also active in judo and equestrian competitions.

Sports, however, were just fun sidelines. Professionally, he was one of the most respected silversmiths in the country.

Mr. Sadd owned R.T. Sadd Silversmiths on Howard Avenue, across from Fort Homer Hesterly Armory. He restored silver pieces for museums in Florida and across the United States, including the Henry B. Plant Museum in Tampa and the Flagler Museum in West Palm Beach.

"He could take a piece that was broken in two, and, working just from a picture, he'd put it together, and you'd never know it was broken," said Robert Sadd Jr., the eldest of his two sons.

Only a few silversmiths remained of his caliber, his sons said. He often couldn't find the tools to do his work.

"He had to make the tools because they didn't exist," said his other son, Eric Sadd. "He'd have a restoration project, and he'd be walking around, for weeks sometimes, talking about how he didn't know how to fix it. Then he'd wake up one morning, and he'd figured out what to do. But then he'd have to make the tools."

As a result, Mr. Sadd also became an expert machinist. Once, a friend needed a bearing for his Jeep that was no longer available. Mr. Sadd created one from scratch and, using only his own eyes, got it to one-one-hundredth of an inch of the original.

"He didn't have a college education," his son Robert said. "He just picked up on his own. It still blows me away, the things he was able to do."

Mr. Sadd's artistry made him especially popular with city officials. He silver-plated the six shovels used in the ceremonial groundbreaking at Harbour Island and would often gold-plate badges for police officers who had been promoted to detective.

His business was so popular that Mr. Sadd didn't need to advertise. In fact, he never had a work phone.

"People would just leave notes for him in his mailbox, and he'd call them back," Eric Sadd said.

Mr. Sadd worked at the shop until earlier this month when he suffered a massive stroke.

He survived for about a week and was laughing and joking, right until the time of his death. He died at his home in Town 'N Country, which he shared with his wife, Lois, for more than 30 years.

And though his artistic legacy lives on in silver swords, candelabras and spoons around the country, his family and friends remember him as a man with an imposing presence, a kind demeanor and an ingratiating sense of humor.

"He was a good friend, but he was Dad, too," Robert Sadd Jr. said. "He was just really, really cool."

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