Entrepreneur also a civic leader
By NOVA BEALL
Published June 28, 2007
G. Richard Bell founded Great Bay Distributors, the second- largest beer distributor in Florida.
G. Richard "Dick" Bell, the vice president and general manager of one of Florida's largest beer distributors and one of Clearwater's community leaders, died Monday (June 25, 2007) at Morton Plant Hospital, Clearwater. He was 85.
Mr. Bell, who helped build Great Bay Distributors Inc. of Largo, was known for inspiring others, recognizing their inherent worth and giving them a chance to excel, colleagues said.
"I was a college intern, looking for a job, " said Sandy Ho, Great Bay's Human Resources Director. "Mr. Bell hired me for the summer. That was 18 years ago."
She went on to say, "In the last few days, so many people have popped their heads into my office and said 'Do you know Mr. Bell gave me a chance?' and 'Mr. Bell interviewed me.' " She added, "We were given a chance because Mr. Bell saw something in us."
A native of Rockford, Ill., Mr. Bell was a graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill., and served with the Army Air Forces in the South Pacific during World War II.
When Mr. Bell began his career in distribution in the late 1940s, Central Florida was a patchwork of orange groves and dirt roads. It was necessary for trucks to make long hauls to deliver their products.
In 1968, Great Bay Distributor's founder and chairman, the late Claude Focardi, saw a better way to distribute products and hired Mr. Bell as his general manager. Under their leadership, the company has grown to become the second-largest beer distributor in the state.
Mr. Bell was very active in many local service clubs and associations such as the Suncoast Safety Council and Rotary Club. He supported law enforcement through his involvement with the Police Athletic League and the Florida Sheriff's Youth Ranch. He also served as a board and advisory member for several groups, including Rotary Camp Florida and St. Petersburg College. He was a Mason and a member of Sunshine Lodge 288 F&AM/Northside.
In his off time, Mr. Bell loved to fly, and enjoyed traveling, photography and fishing.
Asked what she felt was Mr. Bell's most important contribution, Ms. Ho replied, "You could count on him for leadership and he had integrity. I will be forever grateful that my mentor was an honorable man."
Mr. Bell is survived by his wife of 60 years, Audrey L.; three daughters, Elizabeth "Beth" Bell of Largo, and Salle V. Bell and Kathleen E. Sanford, both of Clearwater; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
The family will receive friends on Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home, 2860 Sunset Point Road, Clearwater. A funeral service will be held Saturday at 11:30 a.m. at the Peacefield Mausoleum in Sylvan Abbey Memorial Park. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Rotary International Foundation or the Northern Illinois University Geography Department, DeKalb, Ill.
[Last modified June 27, 2007, 20:46:50]
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