He was happiest when swamp buggy racing or fishing with his brother Louis using their Ozello Shrimper traps in the grass flats of Bunces Pass. Championing the preservation of Clam Bayou. Celebrating his niece’s birthday with an annual fish fry. Being married with four children. Serving as a fire captain, the vice mayor and a councilmember.
Robert “Bob” Worthington, 69, loved his family, the outdoors and Gulfport, Florida.
Known as “Bobby” to his life-long friends, he was born on May 6, 1947 and died on July 13, 2016 of cancer under Hospice care at Bayfront Medical Center, St. Petersburg.
“I recognize Bobby as being courageous,” said Mike Yakes, former Gulfport mayor and boyhood friend. “He’s Bob Worthington to most people but he’s always and will be Bobby to me.”
Being younger, Bob Worthington tagged along with his brother Louis and Yakes. The young trio regularly joined others outdoors and at Gulfport’s beach to cool off.
“What I admired most about Bobby was his thoroughness and determination,” Yakes said. “When he believed in something, he just went for it all the way.”
As adults, Yakes and Bob Worthington served together on the Gulfport City Council.
On the issues of Florida marine life in general and Clam Bayou’s water quality in particular, “Bobby researched it,” said Yakes. “Got behind it. He went before [state officials] and scientists and made a presentation. He impressed me so much. He understood it and did everything in his powers to resolve problems.”
Bob Worthington served two terms on council from 2004 to 2008.
He worked as a mechanical engineer at Honeywell for 37 years and served as a volunteer firefighter in Gulfport for 27 years, about half of which was as a captain in charge of training. He was also a member of Gulfport’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).
And, he helped a long-time friend fine tune his invention called the Ozello Shrimper device. In the early 1990s, according to the OzelloShrimper.com website, Bob Worthington brought his Honeywell coworkers out shrimping: “Many of these friends were space engineers and scientists who worked to create space probes and rockets by day. By night they walked the flats of Tierra Verde together looking for equally strange life forms.”
He also loved swamp buggy racing in the era before the monster truck craze, said Pat Carney, who served with him for 25 years in the volunteer fire department.
“He [and Louis] had like five different Jeeps they were always working on,” said Carney. “They were just a couple of good ol’ boys who did it for fun.”
In addition, he was a founder of the Fire Explorers group and was active in CERT.
His second wife Fran preceded him in death on June 27, 2014. They were married in 1982 and shared four surviving adopted children: Donna Sloan, Butch who works for Pepsi-Cola, and twins Scott and Steven who are both officers in the fire department of the city of St. Petersburg. A fifth surviving child, Michelle Dodge, was from his first marriage, which was brief.
A brother, Jimmy, and a sister, Jenny, preceded him in death. Other survivors include a brother, Louis Worthington of Gulfport; two sisters who live in Citrus County, Nancy Brunswig and Sandy Worthington; 13 grandchildren; and, eight great-grandchildren.
His great-great-grandfather was the first white settler of Gulfport in 1865.
Carney said the most notable quote of Bob Worthington’s is, “The most enjoyable part of my life was when I was married to Fran and had four children brought into my life.”
A Celebration of Life ceremony will be Saturday, July 23 at 1 p.m. at the Gulfport Senior Services Center, 5501 27th Ave. S. The ceremony will start in the adjacent theater and feature speakers including Carney and Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly. A luncheon will be included. The Gulfport fire department is also planning a special tribute.
In lieu of flowers, the family would like any donations to go to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation, P.O. Drawer 498, Emmitsburg, Maryland 21727 orvisit firehero.org/donate/
Watch the Ozello Shrimper video, which includes a cameo by Bob Worthington.
Information from the Tampa Bay Times and the historical OzelloShrimper.com website was used in this article.