PRESTON, Walter Lane
died October 9, 2016 surrounded by his loving family. Walter was born Christmas Day, 1928 in Tampa, son of Alice and Whiting Preston. While growing up in Tampa, he spent much of his time playing golf at Palma Ceia Golf Course and competed in many local tournaments. Walter attended The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and graduated from Jesuit High School in Tampa in 1946. He attended Babson Business Institute, but left to serve our country in the US Navy during the Korean Conflict from 1950 to 1954. Walter served on the aircraft carrier, USS Bennington, as a radio traffic operator on the flight deck. In May 1951, he married Flavia Florez, "the love of his life." Walter and Flavia made Bradenton their home where he joined the family business, Manatee Fruit Company, founded in 1892 by his grandfather. It is one of the oldest corporations in the state of Florida. The Preston family produced and traded in agricultural commodities for several generations. Walter and his father, Whiting, expanded from not only growing vegetables and citrus, but into the floral industry with flowers and plants, making the Manatee Fruit Company one of the largest domestic floral producers in the country. Manatee Fruit Company was recognized as a brand for top quality products throughout the industry in the United States and Canada. Flavia once described her husband as "honest and hardworking with an attitude of responsibility and love toward family and friends." His passion and determination in the floral industry enabled him to impact the lives of so many who enjoy the meaning and practice of giving flowers.
He was involved in many organizations as a leader and advocate for agriculture and the floral industry. Some of his achievements and recognitions include: President of the North American Gladiolus Council, Chairman of the Floriboard Task Force, the Governor's Task Force on the Future of Agriculture, Outstanding Horticulturist of the Year in 1976 by the Department of Horticulture of the University of Florida, and the 1986 Outstanding Florida Agriculturist. Walter was recipient of the Leland T. Kintzele Distinguished Service Award given for outstanding service and dedication to the floral industry in 1995. He served as the chairman of the American Floral Marketing Council for the Society of the American Florists and as a trustee of the American Floral Endowment. In 2012 Walter received the distinguished honor of induction into the Floriculture Hall of Fame. As a lifelong resident, he was asked to service on the Board of Directors of First Florida Bank. Through his love and enjoyment of golf, he became a member of Bradenton Country Club and Sara Bay Country Club and he traveled, which gave him the opportunity to play many golf courses.
Walter was predeceased by his beloved wife of 61 years, Flavia. He is survived by his daughters, Lane Kimbrel Stamm (George) of Atlanta, GA., Patricia Priester (John) of Charlotte, NC, Ann Carey (John) of Jacksonville, FL; son, Whiting Preston (Dana) of Palmetto, Fl.; 11 grandchildren, Preston Kimbrel (Lindsay), Daniel Kimbrel, Alison Rainero (Stevan), Jay Priester (Katie), Hayden Priester, Patrick Priester, Whit Carey, Kate Light (Thomas), Andrew Carey, Walter Preston, Eva Preston; seven great-grandchildren; sister, Jane Preston Fitzgerald (Sarasota). He was preceded in death by his son-in-law, Charles Daniel Kimbrel and brother-in-law, Richard Crumbly Fitzgerald.
The family's heartfelt thanks go to Mr. Preston's exceptional caregivers, Zet Thomas, Pat Baird, Kim Christeson, Carrie Harmon, Susan Tyree, and Kelli Pine.
The visitation will be held Thursday, October 13 from 5-7 pm at Griffith Cline Funeral Home, 720 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, Florida. A funeral service will be held Friday, October 14 at 11 am at Griffith Cline Funeral Home. Interment will be private. Donations may be made in honor of Walter Lane Preston to Saints Peter and Paul's Catholic Church, 2850-75th St.W., Bradenton, FL 34209 or to Tidewell Hospice of Bradenton, 3355-26th St. W., Bradenton, Fl 34205, or The Wounded Warrior Project.
Published in Tampa Bay Times on Oct. 12, 2016.