Terry Tomalin had a lot of canoes. He had lots of kayaks, too, and surf skis and surfboards and other floaty things. As an avid outdoorsman, he kept personal watercraft for every occasion.
When the longtime Tampa Bay Times journalist died of a heart attack in 2016, at the age of 55, the new St. Petersburg Pier was still just a gleam in Rick Kriseman’s eye. Now, Tomalin’s legacy has its own little corner of the 26-acre recreational center: His favorite wooden canoe, a 20-foot Old Town, has been fashioned into a memorial outside of Doc Ford’s Rum Grille.
“This canoe, he used for lots of adventures locally,” said Tomalin’s widow, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin. “He would keep it in the Times delivery bay because whenever there would be a flood on Snell Isle, or anything that gave photographers or reporters a hard time traversing the city, he’d paddle them around. And they could get pictures from the canoe.”
So it was something of a no-brainer, Tomalin said, when novelist Randy Wayne White, an adventuring pal of her husband’s and a part-owner of the Doc Ford’s franchise, and his partners were looking for some way to honor his friend in the city he called home.
“I don’t remember exactly how it came up,” Kanika Tomalin said, “but it was ‘Wouldn’t it be awesome to have Terry’s canoe at the restaurant? What a great remembrance. So much of what he loved is represented right here – the bay, the waterfront, the city.”
Terry, she added, was one of the founders of the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. “Before it was formalized, as a fundraiser, he would do it on his birthday – get a group of his closest buddies together and swim across the bay just for grins. And the prize was a cold beer on the other side.
“Randy was in on one of those first swims. They’ve always had a kind of loving relationship, co-adventurers.”
Tomalin’s quarter century of outdoors and environmental reporting made him a Times favorite, and when he wasn’t writing about it, he was living it.
“He had a crew that he traveled closely with,” said Kanika. “They’d go in an outrigger canoe to Bimini, or the Bahamas, from here. All over.
“If it wasn’t quite that, he was in a kayak, or this canoe.”
An Adventurer’s Canoe
Terry Tomalin, 1960-2016
He learned magic from a shaman in the rainforest and how to wrestle alligators in the Everglades. He backpacked across New Zealand and saw the run rise over Mount Cook. Terry Tomalin’s adventures took him to the far reaches of the world and kept him close to home. A husband, father and fabled outdoors writer, Tomalin answered with words, wherever adventure called …