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From Olympic soccer to Interpol, he did it all

Published December 1, 2006


PARKLAND ESTATES - He liked to describe himself as "just a poor Italian immigrant."

But Fortune "Tino" Bosco counted among his friends several decades of U.S. senators, Florida governors and several decades' worth of Tampa's mayors. He had careers as an Interpol agent, lawyer and a prominent columnist.

In the 1950s, he played on the Italian Olympic soccer team, and he helped the people rescued from the sinking ocean liner Andrea Doria. In the 1960s, he took part in the historic civil rights march on Selma, Ala.

"But what he loved most of all was bocce ball and his family," said his daughter, Betsy Turner. "He was such a great dad."

Mr. Bosco passed away Nov. 23, succumbing to prostate cancer he had battled for more than a decade. He was 78 years old.

Although he was well-known in political circles, and considered former Gov. Lawton Chiles and future Gov. Charlie Crist his friends, Mr. Bosco never lost touch with the everyday people of Tampa. Until about a month before his death, he wrote "La Pagina Italiana," a popular page of La Gaceta that dealt with news of the local Italian community.

"I can remember the phone ringing off the hook every week," his daughter said. "Everyone knew him. They'd call and say 'My daughter is having a baby. You have to put that in the paper.' "

He kept writing the page even after he was virtually blind, using a huge magnifying glass to see the letters on his old-fashioned typewriter.

Mr. Bosco was only 9 or 10 when his father died. His mother raised her four children modestly. In the 1930s, Mr. Bosco even spent some time in a camp created by Benito Mussolini to give young boys a sanctuary from the encroaching war.

He earned a law degree from the University of Rome, served in the Italian National Police and later worked with Interpol.

He came to the United States in 1954 aboard the Andrea Doria. Two years later, when that same ship sank after a collision with another liner called the Stockholm, Mr. Bosco served as a translator for the Italian passengers who had been rescued.

In the ensuing days, he met a young woman named Marjorie Nettleton. She worked for Travelers Aid and was also helping passengers from the two ships. They soon married and moved to Florida, where they started a family while Mr. Bosco got his American law degree at the University of Miami.

After he graduated, Mr. Bosco found work as a civil rights attorney with the Office of Economic Development in Tampa. He became passionate about civil rights and was among the thousands who marched in the deadly Alabama protests in 1965.

Meanwhile, retinitis pigmentosa was slowly taking his eyesight. He often brought one of his children along on his business trips to help him get around.

His wife, Marjorie, served as his eyes back home in Tampa, where Mr. Bosco often spent his days playing chess at the old Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Kennedy Boulevard.

His worsening vision never affected his bocce ball expertise. He played avidly and was thrilled when the city named the bocce court in Ybor City after him. During political campaigns, Mr. Bosco would actively support his favorite candidate - usually a Democrat, but not always - and insist that his children join him.

"He was always proud of his Italian heritage," his daughter said. "But once he came to the United States and became a naturalized citizen, he was fiercely proud to be an American."

Besides his wife and daughter Betsy, Mr. Bosco is survived by his daughter Abby James, son Tyler Bosco and eight grandchildren.

[Last modified November 30, 2006, 07:37:05]

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