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One man's legacy is family with close ties

The businessman, who died Sunday, built his life around his wife and children, golf and Gator football.

Published October 3, 2003

VIRGINIA PARK - In a way, Scott Lee and his family lived the stereotypical American life of the 1950s and '60s. Dad worked for the same company his entire career, worked his way up the corporate ladder and moved to new cities when asked. Mom took care of the kids and the house.

Looking back, his daughter said, the Lees' family life was far from typical.

"When I hear about other people, about their families, I think "Wow, I was so lucky,' " said Nancy Murrah.

With his wife, Hazel (whom everyone called "Pete," for a reason unknown to three daughters), Mr. Lee created a family that was exceptionally close and happy.

"He was a fun dad, but he was very strict," his daughter said. "It was one of those things where, while we were growing up we thought he was too strict, but now we realize he was just doing what he had to, to make us good people."

Because of his guidance, Ms. Murrah said, the family always remained very close. She and her sister Betty Napoli talk to each other virtually every day, and they both talked to their father every day until he died Sunday (Sept. 28, 2003) at the age of 87.

"My dad was very outgoing, and he was a very successful businessman," she said. "He loved life and he enjoyed people. He's going to be missed, not just by his family but by a lot of people."

Mr. Lee was born in Chattanooga, Tenn., and graduated from the University of Tennessee. Not long after graduation he started working for New York Life, where he worked until he retired as general manager.

He was in his early 20s when he met a teenage girl named Hazel "Pete" Gordon at church. They married when she was just 18 years old, and they spent the next 56 years together. They never seemed to fall out of love.

"For my mom, certainly, it was her first love," Ms. Murrah said. "And as I was going through my father's papers, I came across this thing he had written right after she died saying she was the love of his life."

The couple moved to Jacksonville in the 1940s, where Mr. Lee served on the Gator Bowl board of directors.

Football was one of the passions of his life. The others were his wife, his family and golf.

Although he attended the University of Tennessee, Mr. Lee was especially passionate about the Florida Gators.

"I remember a lot of weekends when he packed us all in the car and drove us to Gainesville," Ms. Murrah said, "whether we wanted to go or not."

Mr. Lee was a slight man, about 5-foot-4, who never played football. But he was an avid golfer and played at the Palma Ceia Golf and Country Club several times a week.

Football games often dictated when the Lee family would make weekend outings to Gainesville, and golf often determined where they would go on vacation.

"Vacations always revolved around where the best golf courses were," Ms. Murrah said. "But we always had a good time."

Mrs. Lee died about seven years ago and Mr. Lee continued to live in the family's original Tampa home, on Tacon Street in Virginia Park, until just a few years ago when his health started to decline. He spent his last years in an assisted living facility in the Brandon area.

On Saturday, the day before he died, he watched his Gators defeat the University of Kentucky. Ms. Murrah was with him.

"The Gators beat Kentucky, and that made him happy," she said. "Then there was another game, Auburn-Alabama. One of the last things he said to me on Saturday was, "What's the score?' "

In addition to Ms. Murrah, Mr. Lee is survived by another daughter, Betty Napoli, and by a grandson, Scott Napoli. His wife and his daughter Linda Lee Levens predeceased him.

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