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Sports fan worked sidelines of Bucs games

Impulsive and competitive, he had made a career of golf after serving in the Air Force.

By Stephanie Hayes, Times Staff Writer
Published February 17, 2008


ST. PETERSBURG - Raymond Wiezycki constantly got in his car and drove, no destination in mind.

Sometimes, he'd take one of his children. They'd talk the entire ride, no radio, and no filter on the conversation. Politics, sports, family, the state of the world.

But other times, Mr. Wiezycki would go alone.

There was a free spirit inside. He never liked to be in one place too long. As a boy, he lived in Chicago. For high school, he moved to Saginaw, Mich., where he flourished as an athlete.

In the Air Force, he discovered a passion for golf. He was good at it, and it helped him talk to high-ranking officers on the base. Plus, he never liked to sit behind a desk.

He made golf his career, working as a pro at exclusive country clubs around the country. He taught his children to play by tweaking the swing to fit their abilities.

His wife, Donna, worked alongside him. The kids helped by picking up golf balls and cleaning clubs. Mr. Wiezycki, a top-tier member of the Professional Golf Association, would sometimes play in big tournaments.

He was a strong competitor with a blunt personality.

"He was always opinionated," said his son, Ryan Wiezycki, 46. "He didn't care what anyone thought. He didn't sugarcoat anything. But I never felt like I had to back him up or justify him. He was who he was."

He never wanted to disappoint his father. Because rather than screaming, Mr. Wiezycki would "have a talk" with his kids on one of those long car rides.

Every year, the family took summer vacations. With Mr. Wiezycki at the wheel of a camper, they'd head to Michigan, Georgia, the Appalachian Trail. They'd watch baseball games and visit family.

One day, he told the kids they weren't going to school, said his daughter, Wendi Stevens. He loaded them in a car bound for Walt Disney World.

"He was just spur of the moment," said Stevens, 47. "He was impulsive."

For years, Mr. Wiezycki worked on the sidelines of Tampa Bay Buccaneers home games. He was a liaison between TV stations and referees, ensuring commercial breaks happened smoothly.

He mingled with Warren Sapp and Mike Alstott, his daughter said. He brought his family to games. His wife cheered wildly.

But in 2005, his life changed.

* * *

He met his wife in high school. They were sweethearts. They got married young, had kids young.

Their marriage had rough patches, but they pulled through. Sometimes, they'd give each other space. When Mrs. Wiezycki started a new career late in life, her husband cheered her on.

There was an intangible balance there, Stevens said. Her mother was an outgoing country music fan who loved concerts and socializing. Her father had a few close friends. He was the low- key, solitary answer to his wife.

In 2005, Mrs. Wiezycki died suddenly of cancer at age 66. Her husband was devastated.

He had health problems of his own. When he was just 35, he underwent heart surgery, Stevens said. But he maintained his health fiercely, watched what he ate. Recently, he caught pneumonia.

Flowers and heart decorations filled his rehab center this month. Stevens told the therapist that it was a hard time of year for her father.

"He wanted to be with my mom," she said.

Mr. Wiezycki died on Tuesday at age 68. It was two days before Valentine's Day - his wedding anniversary.

Stephanie Hayes can be reached at shayes@sptimes.com or 727 893-8857.

BIOGRAPHY

Raymond Wiezycki

Born: March 21, 1939.

Died: Feb. 12, 2008.

Survivors: children, Wendi Stevens and her husband, Marshall, Ryan Wiezycki, Terri Wiezycki and her fiance, Thomas Barbaria, Sandi Wiezycki; grandchildren, Tyler Ray; stepgrandsons, Nicholas and T.J. Barbaria.