Richard Pazos considered his life an adventure.
Each day he clocked in to work as a private investigator, each moment he was savoring his beloved hobby of boating, every time he rode with Tampa's Rough Riders for teddy bear runs or parade appearances, Pazos' passion shone, said friend Rick Del Rio.
"He was a hell of a guy," Del Rio, who has known Pazos for 40 years, said. "He had the heart of a giant."
The adventure was cut short Saturday morning. Pazos, 48, the incoming president of the 500-member 1st U.S. Volunteer Cavalry — or the Rough Riders — was killed when a car struck his Ford Explorer at the intersection of Azeele Street and Armenia Avenue.
The car driven by Maria Gonzalez, 47, of Wesley Chapel ran a stop sign on Azeele and struck the driver's side of Pazos' SUV, according to a police report. Pazos died at the scene. No charges have yet been filed against Gonzalez, the report said.
Pazos was attending a ball Saturday and was probably on his way to pick up a shirt for his tuxedo, Del Rio said.
"It's hard to take in," he said.
Family, friends and the Rough Riders will remember Pazos this weekend. A wake will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday at JGR Funeral Home, 6718 N. Armenia Ave. Funeral services are at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 15520 North Blvd.
Pazos was born in Cuba and arrived in Florida in 1960, one of the first exiles of the island nation, Del Rio said. He never married or had children. He is survived by his older brother, Carlos, 51.
Richard Pazos, "Richie" to close friends, owned RNP Investigations in Tampa.
Pazos is the third prominent Rough Rider to die in the past year. News Channel 8 meteorologist John Winter died in April. Longtime member Don Thornhill, who worked closely with Pazos on the organization's Gasparilla boat committee, died a few weeks later, friends said.
The Rough Riders is a nonprofit service and social club known for giving donated teddy bears to hospital patients and for its involvement with Special Olympics, the March of Dimes and other civic groups.
Pazos was especially looking forward to helming the Rough Riders in October because the presidency falls during a year the Super Bowl comes to town, Del Rio said.
"He worked his butt off to get in this position," he said.
Carlos Pazos said his brother will be well-remembered because he was slow to anger and quick to forgive.
"Every single photograph, he had a smile, even when he wasn't looking at the camera," Carlos Pazos said. "He was a loyal friend. He made you feel comfortable. He lit up a room."