November 24, 2014

In Memoriam

Farewell to these famous Floridians

The past year has seen a number of notable Floridians pass away.

Amy Keller | 12/19/2011

MAY 20
Randy Savage, 58

Before he changed his name and became WWF wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Randy Mario Poffo played minor league baseball for the Chicago White Sox, the Cincinnati Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals from 1971-74. As the Macho Man, he won two WWF championships and 18 other championships. The flamboyant grappler was also a corporate pitchman for Slim Jim, using his signature catch phrase "ohh yeahh!" in TV ads. He died in a car accident in Seminole after suffering a heart attack while behind the wheel.

Randy Savage
[Photo: WWE]

JUNE 15
Bill Haast, 100

For nearly 40 years, from 1947 to 1984, legendary snake handler Bill Haast ran the Miami Serpentarium, a tourist attraction where he milked venom from some of the world's most dangerous reptiles. Haast maintained the snake show to support his venom research, often using himself as a guinea pig. Bitten more than 170 times, he developed immunities to the toxins by injecting himself daily with a mix of venoms. Transfusions of his blood saved the lives of nearly two dozen snakebite victims around the world. The Miami Serpentarium remained the world's premiere venom production center at the time of his death.

Bill Haast
[Photo Courtesy: Bill Haast]

"Aging is hard. Sometimes, you feel useless. But I always felt I would live this long. It was intuitive. I always told people I'd live past 100, and I still feel I will. Is it the venom? I don't know."

— Bill Haast, in an August 2008
interview with Florida Trend

AUG. 27
Stetson Kennedy, 94

Stetson Kennedy, a folklorist, writer and civil rights crusader, infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s and exposed its secrets, rituals and activities. His actions led to Georgia revoking the Klan's national corporate charter and helped weaken the extremist group he referred to as "homegrown racial terrorists." A Jacksonville native, Kennedy landed his first writing job in the midst of the Great Depression, when he was hired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Works Projects Administration to write a guidebook about Florida. He authored numerous books, including "Palmetto Country," "Southern Exposure," "The Klan Unmasked" and "Jim Crow Guide: The Way It Was," which was published by his friend, Jean Paul Sartre.

Stetson Kennedy
[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]

"On the wall we have a literary landmark plaque out front, the Friends of Library USA commemorating Woody (Guthrie's) work, and as soon as I drop dead, they said they'd put up one next to it about my work, so it will be a double dip."

— Stetson Kennedy in a July 2006 interview with Florida Trend

AUG. 31
Space Shuttle, 30

The final space shuttle mission concluded on July 21, as Atlantis rolled to a stop at its home port, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The program's official end followed a few weeks later on Aug. 31. During its 30-year career, the space shuttle fleet deployed the Hubble Space Telescope and helped build the International Space Station. Hundreds of astronauts went into orbit during the shuttle's 135 missions, two of which ended in disaster. On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger exploded and seven crew members were killed when an O-ring on one of its boosters failed. On Feb. 1, 2003, the Columbia broke apart during re-entry on its 28th mission, killing all seven astronauts on board.

Atlantis
[Photo: NASA]

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