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WINTER HAVEN - Richard "Dick" Dantzler, 76, passed away Saturday due to idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He died at home surrounded by his family.
Born and raised in Winter Haven, he was the youngest of four children. He was preceded in death by a brother, Ray Dantzler, and two sisters, Katherine Dantzler Jaberg and Helen Dantzler Saxon.
Dantzler was a graduate of Winter Haven High School, and worked his way through college at the University of Florida, receiving a degree in Agriculture Economics. After graduating from the university, he took a job for Swift & Company in Moultrie, Georgia, where he met his wife of 53 years, Clara Nell Whelchel Dantzler.
He then enlisted in the United States Army, Infantry, and was discharged as a captain in the Reserve.
He and Clara Nell then moved back to Winter Haven, where he began a career in real estate, becoming a founding partner of Town and Country Real Estate of Winter Haven, Inc. He went on to serve as chairman of the Florida Real Estate Commission in 1984.
Dantzler was a Winter Haven city commissioner from 1961-1967, and served as mayor from 1962-1964. "Dad helped lead Winter Haven through the difficult period of integration when he was mayor," said his son, Brad Dantzler. "He also was instrumental in bringing the Boston Red Sox to Winter Haven as its Spring Training headquarters."
His contributions to the community were many and varied. Among those were serving as president of the Winter Haven Chamber of Commerce, director and president of Haven Federal Savings and Loan Association, director of Exchange National Bank of Winter Haven, and deacon of First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven. He was founding chairman of the East Polk County Committee of 100, and coached Little League baseball and football.
Few things gave him more satisfaction than serving as a trustee of Winter Haven Hospital for 30 years, though, including six terms as chairman. "Dad enjoyed his work for the hospital as much as anything," said Todd Dantzler, another son. "He really thought that Winter Haven Hospital was one of the great hospitals in the state, and he worked hard to make it that way."
Dantzler was recognized for his service to the community when he received the Banker's Cup Award in 1989. "My father was a person of the highest character and integrity," son Rick Dantzler said. "He was completely decent in everything."
In addition to his three sons, Dantzler is survived by six grandchildren, Elizabeth and Margaret Dantzler, Hannah and Jacob Dantzler, and L.B. and Blake Dantzler.
Visitation will be at First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven from 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 21st. Funeral services will be held at First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, August 22nd. Honorary pallbearers are Guy Bostick, Larry Tucker, Lance Anastasio, and Ed Willard, MD. Oakridge Funeral Care will be handling arrangements, and condolences may be e-mailed to the family by visiting the funeral home's website at www.oakridgefuneralcar.com.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Winter Haven Hospital Foundation or First Presbyterian Church of Winter Haven, Florida.
Published in Ledger on Aug. 20, 2007