General Norman Schwarzkopf is being remembered locally not just for his leadership during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, but also for his tireless charity work in the Tampa Bay community.
Just months after the conclusion of Desert Storm, Gen. Schwarzkopf was working with the Ronald McDonald House and The Children's Home. People who worked with him say his commitment to help was just like the man himself- larger than life.
The man who became the face of the Gulf War was known affectionately by his troops as "The Bear". But at the Tampa Ronald McDonald House, he was "The Teddy Bear".
"General Schwarzkopf had a huge heart, and his teddy bear persona really showed when he took on these causes," said Janice Davis, of Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Schwarzkopf liked the "bear" moniker enough that he personally designed a teddy bear made in his likeness for the Ronald McDonald House. 21 years after he donated it for charity, it's still on display there, as a symbol of his commitment to children.
"He really believed in giving back. That's what I loved about him as a person," David said.
David worked with Schwarzkopf for several years at the Ronald McDonald House. He was generous with his time and support, but he was also a leader.
"Charities need that. They need those mentors, they need those people that champion those causes. We're fortunate that he found that in us, and that we found that in him," Davis said.
Schwarzkopf lent his name to a charity skeet shooting tournament to benefit The Children's Home in Tampa. Even in recent years, he and his family were still involved.
"In recent years, he would come out and really thank people for their involvement. It seemed he really had a heart for supporting children and families in the community," said Merrill Stewart, of The Children's Home.
In Lutz, well-wishers left flowers Friday at Schwarzkopf Elementary School. When the school needed a mascot, it shouldn't come as any surprise that they chose a bear wearing a four-star general's hat.
"It's a great loss to the community and the country," Stewart said.
Schwarzkopf's passion was helping children, but he was also an advocate for prostrate cancer screening and research, having himself been a survivor.
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