Half a century ago he foresaw a boomtown
By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published August 1, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - James Altman was a diplomat, even in the most high-pressure situations: crayon wars.
He had a brood of seven young children, and competition was natural. They would gaze up at him, freshly colored pictures in hand. Who did better, Dad?
"Every one of us did the best job," said his daughter, Ann Altman. "I did the best job with color, and my sister did the best job staying in the lines."
Altman, 83, died Monday after suffering a stroke.
More than 50 years ago, Altman moved from Pittsburgh to New Port Richey - at that time, just a seed of a city. He wanted to help it bloom.
"I think he saw an opportunity when he moved to New Port Richey," said Ann Altman. "He saw sort of a boomtown that was beginning to come into its own."
A lawyer, James Altman worked as the city's attorney for many years without pay. He championed the city's first hospital, now called Morton Plant North Bay, and helped plan the recreation center and city pool on Van Buren Street. He took the first dive off that pool's diving board.
In 2005, he received a Hall of Fame induction from the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce, to which he belonged for 50 years.
Above all else, he wanted his children to shine.
Altman loved sports. He spent hours outside with the kids, doing drills in the yard and teaching them to bat with both hands.
For years, he coached Little League baseball in West Pasco. His players didn't necessarily have major-league talent, but he always ruled with extreme calm.
"He was very kind and very patient," said his son, Bob Altman. "He would take boys that were completely incapable of catching a ball at the beginning of the season, and by the end of the season, have them feeling like they were significant contributors to the team."
In the Altman household, college was never an option - it was just expected.
Altman was first in his family to embark on a professional career, his family said. Seeing his children do the same meant everything.
Two of his sons joined their father's law practice. And one son, Peter Altman, has served as mayor of New Port Richey and a Pasco County commissioner.
"I don't think there was a member of the family that did not aspire to further ourselves educationally," Peter Altman said. "We understood the value of enrichment, of that came from him."
The kids enriched him, too.
Each day, when Altman came home from the office, seven children would scamper to him the second he walked in the door.
And like that, any troubles on his mind would melt away.
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at email@example.com or 727893-8857.
Born: Dec. 25, 1923.
Died: July 30, 2007.
Survivors: Wife Mildred; children Jay, Bob, Tom, Peter, Ann, Joan Anderson and Janet DuPont; 13 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and a great-great-granddaughter.
Services: Family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at Michels & Lundquist Funeral Home, 5228 Trouble Creek Road. Funeral Mass at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, New Port Richey.