WINTER HAVEN LOSES A LEADER
One of Winter Haven's best known and respected citizens, former mayor/commissioner Richard "Dick" Dantzler, passed away over the weekend after a long battle with the condition known as idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. He was 76.
Dantzler, born and raised in Winter Haven, was a longtime businessman who led or otherwise involved in a number of civic organizations over the years. In addition to heading two area banks, his accomplishments included being active --- and for a time chairing --- the trustee board of Winter Haven Hospital, as well as heading the Winter Haven Area Chamber of Commerce. His business interests included real estate, and he was named chairman of the Florida Real Estate Commission in 1984.
He was elected to the City Commission in 1961-67, serving as mayor from 1962-64. During his tenure, Dantzler was credited with helping make Winter Haven the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox, as well as helping guide the city through the difficult periods of racial intergration.
Dantzler's sons have all followed in their dad's footsteps well. All have become active in a variety of civic organizations, and one, Rick, is a former Florida State Senator who resigned in 1998 to run for governor. Rick told the Lakeland Ledger that their father stressed the importance of community service and that should be a guiding principle for any responsible citizen.
Dick Dantzler was a man who obviously loved his home area, and worked hard to make it a better place for all. He set an example that all of us should strive for. Mr. Dantzler will be missed, but he can rest in peace now with the knowledge that he has the thanks and respect of many throughout Winter Haven and beyond.