David A. Straz Jr., a businessman who became one of the area’s most generous philanthropists, has died. He was 77 years old. He passed away in his sleep while on a fishing trip with close friends, according to a statement from the David A. Straz Jr. Foundation. The foundation said it would release funeral plans once they are final.
Mr. Straz was the namesake for the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa.
Straz ran for Tampa mayor earlier this year, losing to Jane Castor.
I’m saddened to hear about the passing of Mr. Straz. David’s indelible contributions to this city will be a part of our cultural fabric for decades to come. My heart goes out to the entire family during this very difficult time.
— Jane Castor (@JaneCastor) November 18, 2019
Former Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he also was saddened by the loss. “His generosity to the causes he cared about helped to shape the City we know today. His life will not be defined a single campaign but by the totality of his life and his contributions to the greater good,” Buckhorn said.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman also commented on Straz’ legacy.
Very sad news about David Straz. His legacy is evident all around us. Beyond being grateful for his philanthropy in our region, I had a personal affinity for him and will miss him. My condolences to his family and all those touched by his kindness.
— Rick Kriseman (@Kriseman) November 18, 2019
Two years after graduating from college, Straz acquired a small country bank near Milwaukee, Wisconsin and built First Southeast Banking Corp., which eventually became part of U. S. Bank, according to Carthage College, where he was chairman of the board of trustees until last year. In Florida, he built Southern Exchange Bank in the Tampa-St. Pete area, selling it to Southern Exchange in 2003. It now operates as the Florida Gulf Coast branches of Fifth Third Bank.
Jack Barrett, president and CEO of First Citrus Bank, recalled Straz’ banking legacy.
Today, Tampa Bay lost a community banking exemplar and philanthropic icon. David Straz’s passion for excellence was only exceeded by his courageous example and plain-spoken honesty.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family.
— John Barrett (@JbarrettBarrett) November 19, 2019
Others impacted by Straz’ generosity also said he would be missed.
We are deeply saddened by the passing of The Honorable David A. Straz, Jr. David was a generous hero to Berkeley, as he was to all of Tampa Bay. He altered the trajectory of our school through his strong belief in the power of the work we do. He will be sorely missed by all . pic.twitter.com/TZVGjGFTw5
— Berkeley Preparatory (@BerkeleyPrep) November 19, 2019
I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Tampa’s David Straz. I appreciated his business insight, love of Tampa General Hospital and forward thinking on U.S.-Cuba policy. I’m sending love and prayers to Catherine and their daughter. https://t.co/69EtYcwylB
— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) November 19, 2019
Mr. Straz was a former chairman of Florida Health Sciences Center, the governing body of Tampa General Hospital, which issued a statement Tuesday morning:
“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of David A. Straz, Jr. For 20 years, Tampa General Hospital benefited from his guidance and wisdom. We appreciate both his leadership as a board member and his dedication to the health and well-being of our patients and families. He was deeply committed to improving the health of Tampa Bay residents. He brought the same enthusiasm to improving the economic and artistic health of our city. We are inspired by his passion to make Tampa a better, healthier and more vibrant place to live and work. Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are with David’s wife, Catherine; their daughter; and the rest of the family during this sad time.”