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Attilio G. 'Pug' Puglisi, mosaic artist, dies at 77


© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- Attilio G. "Pug" Puglisi, an artist and craftsman who designed a miniature wetland for the Science Center and adorned his adopted city with intricate mosaics, has died at 77.

Mr. Puglisi, a retired designer for Cypress Gardens and Sea World who lived in St. Petersburg for 44 years, died Wednesday (May 10, 2000) while visiting a daughter in North Carolina. The cause was cancer, his family said.

Work on the Science Center project began two years ago with Mr. Puglisi offering his experience. Then district governor of Lions Clubs International, he recruited members of the Pinellas Barrier Islands Environmental Lions Club of Madeira Beach to provide volunteer labor at the center, 7701 22nd Ave. N.

Work stalled when he became ill last September and his projected rain forest next to the wetland was put aside, Science Center director Susan Gordon said Friday. "He was so artistic, so full of energy," she recalled of Mr. Puglisi, a member of the Science Center board of directors. "When he spoke to a group, everybody was so excited."

Also on the Science Center grounds is one of his most distinctive projects, White Gardens. Featuring mosaic tile panels showing a silhouette of each state, capital and nickname as well as a picture of its official bird and flower, it was built at the old National Bank of St. Petersburg, 1000 Tyrone Blvd. N.

Starley M. White, the bank chairman who inspired and financed the project, had the gardens moved to the Science Center in 1970 because of vandalism, Mrs. Gordon said.

Mr. Puglisi's local legacy includes work at St. Therese's Byzantine Catholic Church, 4265 13th Ave. N, a study in classical Byzantine architecture. Gracing the church entrance is a mosaic, designed and constructed by Mr. Puglisi, of Christ's resurrection.

Born in a village at the base of Mount Etna in Sicily, Attilio George Puglisi came to the United States with his parents at age 5. Entering school at Schenectady, N.Y., he found a way to deal with a handicap: "I couldn't speak English," he said in a 1964 interview, "but I could draw. The teacher gave me paper and pencil and I was in my own little world."

He studied at Winthrop School of Ceramics, Washington, D.C., and came here from Long Island, N.Y., for his wife's health in 1956.

Survivors include his wife of 51 years, Nancy; two daughters, Jo Anne Puglisi, Orlando, and Diane Granger, Wilmington, N.C.; and four grandchildren.

A mass will be at 9 a.m. today at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 7851 54th Ave. N. Burial will be at Memorial Park Cemetery.

Blount, Curry & Roel Funeral Homes & Cemeteries, Memorial Park Chapel, is in charge of arrangements.

- Information from Times files was used in this obituary.

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