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Former fire official Al Kroner dies at 67

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 13, 2001


SPRING HILL -- A former Spring Hill Fire commissioner known for his easy-going manner was found dead Monday from an apparent heart attack.

Friends and colleagues expressed shock at the death of Al Kroner, 67, who ran for re-election in November and lost, but still attended meetings and talked of running again someday. Former commissioner Gene Panozzo described him as a friendly family man who steered clear of the politics that often surround the board.

"He was open-minded, and nobody influenced his decisions," said Panozzo, who served on the fire commission with Mr. Kroner. "I can't believe this. He seemed pretty healthy."

However, officials said Mr. Kroner had been sufferring from cardiac problems and, until a formal autopsy can be done, they are assuming that is what killed him. Authorities said Mr. Kroner's daughter found him about 5:30 p.m. Monday in his Spring Hill home. She had been visiting him from out of state and, after returning from the store, saw that he was not breathing. He is survived by his wife, his daughter, two sons and grandchildren. He worked in hotel sales and marketing.

Spring Hill Fire Chief Mike Morgan said Mr. Kroner will be missed. The chief, whom Mr. Kroner supported during his four-year stint on the commission, characterized him as "a fair guy . . . a funny guy."

"He was sometimes criticized for not getting involved, but I looked at him as a businessman who would sit back and do (his job) from an outsider's perspective," Morgan said.

Bob Kanner, Spring Hill Fire Rescue Commission chairman, expressed sympathy to Mr. Kroner's family despite past problems between the two men. Mr. Kroner demanded a formal apology from the chairman in July after Kanner did not list him as someone he wanted to see re-elected to the board and -- at the top of the recommendation letter -- wrote, "Don't confuse Kroner with Kanner." Mr. Kroner never got his apology.

"Even though we had our differences on the board, Al was still a good human being," Kanner said Monday. "My prayers go out to the family."

- Times staff writer Jennifer Farrell contributed to this report.

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