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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Gruff spirit of Spook won't soon fade at the Clock
By ANDREW MEACHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published January 29, 2008
Wilfred "Spook" Wyman, 70, right, a regular at the Clock Family Restaurant in Zephyrhills, died on Tuesday of chronic lung disease.
The first time the manager of Clock Family Restaurant in Zephyrhills offered Wilfred "Spook" Wyman a refill on his coffee, he was soundly rejected.
"He said, 'G-- d--- it, leave me alone,'" recalled Al Asenavage, 36. "It blew me away."
He learned that the cardinal rule of restaurant work - that one must give respect in order to receive it - did not always apply.
"With Spook," he said, "you had to give disrespect to get respect." Today, Asenavage considers Mr. Wyman his favorite customer ever.
Mr. Wyman appeared at the Clock up to three times a day. He sat at the counter and demanded coffee, sometimes thumping his fist for emphasis.
Mr. Wyman would not accept coffee from StaceyAnn Puckett, who, he contended, talked too much.
"He didn't like me and I didn't like him," said Puckett, known to her co-workers as Motormouth. "We were happy not getting along."
Wilfred "Spook" Wyman died on Tuesday, of chronic lung disease. He was 70.
He grew up in upstate New York, raised mostly by his mother, a full-blooded Blackfoot Indian. At age 6, when he and his younger brother were sledding down a hill, they went into a road and were run over by a lumber truck.
The brother, 4, died. Mr. Wyman broke his skull and got a steel plate in his head. Then at age 50, Mr. Wyman, a laborer, was jack-hammering in a deep hole when the hole collapsed. Those injuries put him on disability.
Kathleen Wyman said people might have called her husband Spook "because he wasn't supposed to be here."
But she doesn't know for sure. Neither does anybody at the Clock.
He tipped a straight 10 percent, no matter what. He flirted with waitresses and brought them soft peppermints, all except Motormouth.
One day, Mr. Wyman brought in a squirt bottle and squirted waitresses as they walked by. In retaliation, manager Nora Centner, brought the hose in from the outside and squirted Spook back, right in the middle of the restaurant.
It made Mr. Wyman very happy.
As his health worsened, Mr. Wyman would point at his water glass or coffee cup instead of asking, said Teresa Williams, 36, who tore open Mr. Wyman's sugar packets and creamers because his hands shook. At those times, people backed off the teasing.
Kathleen Wyman said her husband inherited his mother's American Indian religious beliefs: "He believed your spirit goes on, it goes into the earth and it comes back. It goes into the plants and like that."
Asenavage has his own ideas about Mr. Wyman's soul. He pointed to the counter, where the hum of the restaurant is loudest. "He's right there," he said. "I can feel it."