Gus R. Jimenez: 1928-2004. Gus Jimenez is remembered as someone who seemed to know almost everything and everyone there is to know in his beloved Tampa.
By MARTY CLEAR
Published October 22, 2004
SUNSET PARK - Few people knew Tampa, or loved it more, than Gus Jimenez.
Even his family was continually amazed by how many people he knew and how much he knew about the city and its history.
"He conducted walking tours of Ybor City, and he could tell people about every single building, what used to be there and what had happened there," said his daughter Holly Provance. "Dr. (Ferdie) Pacheco, the fight doctor, was his cousin, and both of them seemed to know everybody."
Dr. Jimenez died suddenly but peacefully at his longtime Sunset Park home on Oct. 15. He was 76.
Born in Ybor, Dr. Jimenez was an ardent believer in education and held degrees in business, education and mental health.
Even though his doctorate was in mental health, he began his career as a businessman, serving as manager for the old Maas Brothers store on Seventh Avenue in Ybor. He later started his own furniture store, a few blocks east on Seventh.
"It went bankrupt during the Reagan administration," said his wife, Dalia. "That's what he told everybody. He was an fervent Democrat."
He turned that disappointment to success, further indulging his passion for education by becoming a social studies teacher at Memorial Junior High School.
"He was an excellent teacher," his wife said. "His principal pushed him to become a supervisor, and he became the supervisor of all the social studies teachers in the county. He had about 400 teachers under him, and they all loved him. Many of them came to the memorial service."
One of his legacies is a program that brings middle school students to Cracker Country at the Florida State Fair every year.
Dr. Jimenez loved Cracker Country, a re-creation of an old-time Florida village that includes the boyhood log home of his longtime friend Doyle Carlton. Students dress in period costumes, study in the one-room schoolhouse and take part in basketweaving and other activities that city kids don't usually experience.
After his retirement in the mid-1990s, Dr. Jimenez "couldn't sit still," his daughter said, so he started volunteering at the Ybor City State Museum. Besides conducting tours of the casitas and other historic buildings, Dr. Jimenez founded the Croton Society, which brought together people who shared his passion for the brightly colored tropical plants. The club organized popular annual shows at the museum.
Dr. Jimenez battled prostate cancer for the last 12 years of his life, but it didn't slow him down. He founded another organization, Los Caballeros del Centro Asturiano, which supports one of Tampa's most famous buildings.
Despite his long battle with cancer, an injury led to his death. The cancer treatments had left his bones weakened, and four weeks ago he broke his foot. On the day of his death, he was looking forward to having the cast removed in a few weeks.
"He said he was going to lie down for a rest and he never woke up," his wife said. "A blood clot broke loose from his foot and went straight to his heart."
She remembers him as a caring husband and father who never met a stranger.
"He knew so much about so many things, and he was passionate about so many things," she said. "He loved to share his passions and people loved to listen to him."
He survived by his wife; four daughters, B.J. O'Shaughnessy, Susan Wiggins, Pamela Mankowski and Holly Provance; a son, Gus Richard Jimenez; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandsons.