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A dad to one, 'Pop' to many

By MARTY CLEAR, Times Correspondent
Published November 30, 2007


GUERNSEY ESTATES - William Gilbride had only one child, but countless South Tampa kids called him "Pop."

"I was an only child," said his daughter, Kathleen Fischler. "But my mom and dad raised a lot of kids."

In Brooklyn, where he grew up, Mr. Gilbride helped raise his younger brothers and sisters, and he later helped raise many of his siblings' kids.

And for many years, all the ballplayers in Palma Ceia Little League knew Pop, one of the league's most dedicated coaches.

"He liked baseball, but he mainly did it because he loved kids," Fischler said.

"When my son was in Little League, my husband, now my ex-husband, was the manager of the team, and my father was always his coach."

His Little League coaching career ended about 20 years ago, but Mr. Gilbride kept going to the games as a fan.

He died Nov. 23 at age 85 after a long and hard-fought battle with stomach and liver cancer.

He hadn't been in great health for the past several years. He had bypass surgery in 2000, and macular degeneration had left him legally blind.

But even though he was in his mid 80s, his will to live never ebbed.

"The doctors were amazed that he lasted as long as he did," his daughter said. "But he was a fighter. He fought for every second."

Mr. Gilbride had 11 brothers and sisters, and most of them grew up during the Depression. Life wasn't easy, but they helped each other and got by.

He was always mechanically inclined, and he worked in the nearby shipyards, building ships for the Navy.

He joined the Navy himself for the last couple of years of World War II. His Navy work mostly involved repairing ships, quite possibly some of the same ships he had helped build.

After the war, he returned to New York and began a career with the transit system.

At the end of his career there, he was supervising crews that maintained and repaired tracks and trains.

He took early retirement and moved to South Tampa in the 1970s. He had friends in the area and planned to relax and play golf.

But he took a part-time job doing maintenance at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. It turned into a full-time job that lasted into the 1980s.

Although he built solid careers, the focus of his life was always family, and young people in particular, his daughter said.

"I have all these nieces and nephews, and this one would say, 'Your father was the one who taught me to drive,' and another would say, 'Your father taught me how to swing a bat,'" she said.

He did a lot for the younger people in his family, but Mr. Gilbride absolutely doted on his wife, Agnes.

"He lived for my mother," Fischler said. "My mother was the center of his universe."

In fact, she said, his devotion to his wife may have been one reason he fought so hard to battle the various illnesses that beset him in recent years.

"He always wanted to take care of my mother," Fischler said.

"That was a big worry for him when he was passing: What would happen to her?

"I was finally able to convince him that I would take care of her and make sure she was all right after he was gone."

Besides his wife and his daughter, Mr. Gilbride is survived by a brother, two sisters, two grandsons and three great-grandchildren.

[Last modified November 29, 2007, 07:47:06]

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