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By STEPHANIE HAYES, Times Staff Writer
Published December 8, 2007
ST. PETERSBURG - Mention the name Darrell Cutshall to those who knew him, and this will happen:
"The voice!" they'll say. They'll answer an imaginary telephone and melt into a serious grimace. In a low, gravely, Walter Cronkite register, they'll boom, "This is Darrell Cutshall."
In the St. Petersburg Times newsroom, Mr. Cutshall was an editorial assistant, answering phone calls and writing news for 17 years. And everyone heard.
"You couldn't carry on a conversation without the whole newsroom knowing," said Sandee Davies, an editorial assistant who sat across from Mr. Cutshall. "He loved being at the hub of what was going on."
He wanted everyone to love the paper. He took every complaint seriously.
"Because of that voice, people thought that they were on the phone with the CEO," said Paul Tash, Times editor and chairman, who hired Mr. Cutshall in 1983. "Darrell had his quirks, but there was never any doubt about his commitment to the readers."
He wasn't perfect, friends say - but he tried hard.
Once, he gave a message slip with a phone number to David Finkel, a Pulizter Prize winning writer, now at the Washington Post. Finkel dialed the number, which was wrong.
"He looked at it real hard," Finkel said. "He took out a pen and turned the one into a seven. It worked. He got it right the second time."
In 2000, Mr. Cutshall retired, and things got a little quieter.
He wanted someone to care for. He married three times, but never had children.
Every day, he'd call community volunteers to check rain levels and temperatures for the newspaper. He'd keep them on the line, chatting about their families. Mr. Cutshall, a woodworker, made chairs and doll furniture for friends' kids. But there was never anyone for him.
Fifteen years ago, while walking his dog, he met a young man named Steven Scott. They struck up a friendship. They went to breakfast, museums and shows.
"I honestly believe it was predestined," said Scott, now 43, who didn't have a relationship with his own father. "I always wanted a dad I could go talk to about anything. Darrell was my dad and my best friend."
Six years ago, Scott says Mr. Cutshall legally adopted him. They saw each other every day. Scott always said, "Smile, Pop."
He was there as Mr. Cutshall's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease worsened, and when he caught a final cold. He was there when doctors took Mr. Cutshall off the ventilators.
The booming voice was gone. He could only nod, and brush Scott's cheek. Scott told Pop to smile, and he did, one last time. On Wednesday, he died at age 69
Stephanie Hayes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 727 893-8857.
Born: April 16, 1938.
Died: Dec. 5, 2007.
Survivors: son, Steven Scott and his family, Vera, Julie, and Debbie; sister, Verlyne Padot; aunt, Tommie Dodge; nephews and cousins.
Services: Visitation from 2-5 p.m. Sunday at Anderson McQueen Funeral Home, 2201 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N. Funeral at 11 a.m. Monday at the funeral home. Burial with military honors will follow at Florida National Cemetery in Bushnell.
[Last modified December 7, 2007, 23:42:44]