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    Political advocate dies at 96

    Pat Imperato's civic contributions were many, and he had a reputation as a government watchdog.

    By BETSY BOLGER-PAULET

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 12, 2001


    PALM HARBOR -- Pat Imperato, a political advocate whose opinion was heard loudly and clearly throughout the 50 years that he lived in the area, died Friday (March 9, 2001) at Mease Countryside Hospital, Safety Harbor. He was 96.

    Well known for the short letters he wrote to area newspapers, Mr. Imperato was also a columnist for many years with the Suncoast Beacon.

    At age 85, the man who called himself "The Little Italian" and was considered one of the area's most feisty government watchdogs announced that he would run for Congress against U.S. Rep. Michael Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor.

    His political plans were short-lived. Mr. Imperato dropped out of the race before it began with the pithy statement: "The people have spoken, and that means Pat Imperato won't be running for Congress after all."

    Who were the people? About 38 members of Mr. Imperato's family who were against his candidacy because of his age and the time it would have taken.

    "I'm disappointed," Mr. Imperato said then. "I could fight Bilirakis and the Republicans, or the Democrats, but I can't fight my own family."

    Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Imperato came here in 1951 from New Jersey, where he retired as a land developer. Locally, he was secretary and part owner of Peninsular Organics, the area's first recycling center. In 1958, with Dr. Walter Schaefer, he opened the Florida Poison Control Center at St. Anthony's Hospital in St. Petersburg. He helped promote and establish new fire departments for Highland Lakes, and Palm Harbor.

    His civic contributions are myriad. He was past president of Orange Hill Civic Association; past president of South Pinellas Senior Citizens, where he earned the Senior Citizen Award of the year in 1962; and past president of Highland Lakes Civic Association, where he formed the first Neighborhood Watch team and helped establish a voting precinct within Highland Lakes. He was involved in the countywide plan for a bus system and the teach-in program with the Pinellas County School Board. He sponsored a chair in Ruth Eckerd Hall

    He was a member of All Saints Catholic Church, Palm Harbor, and was an Army veteran.

    Survivors include his wife of 71 years, Josephine; two daughters, Louise Strobhar and Joyce Imperato; two brothers, Cabe and Joe; three grandchildren, Tom Westervelt, Scott Strobhar and Pat Strobhar; and three great-grandchildren, Tyla, Rachael and Shannon Strobhar.

    Visitation will be from 5 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, with graveside services at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Curlew Hills Memory Garden. Curlew Hills Funeral Home, Palm Harbor, is in charge of arrangements.

    - Information from Times files used in this report.

    A sample

    Below is a sample of Imperato's short but straight-on letters to the editor, which appeared regularly on St. Petersburg Times editorial pages from his arrival in 1951 to the last one he wrote on Sept. 9, 1999. This letter appeared on Feb. 25, 1994.

    Thanks for the memories

    I enjoyed guest columnist Janine Little's memories of Clearwater in the early '50s -- similar to my enjoyment of St. Petersburg then with all the wildlife on the beaches, meeting all the frozen Northerners at the train station downtown, and the swapping of grandchildren's photos on the benches of Central Avenue.

    Life was placid. Why? No people!

    Pat Imperato

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