Former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco says there was more to Schwarzkopf than his stellar military career

TAMPA - The passing of retired General Norman Schwarzkopf has past and present local leaders in the Bay area reflecting on his legacy and life in Tampa.

Schwarzkopf died at his Tampa home Thursday.  He was 78.

Former Mayor Dick Greco, who was a close friend of the general, used to go skeet shooting with him on MacDill Air Force Base.

"He was an avid outdoorsman," said Greco.

Greco also attended the Super Bowl in Miami with the general.

"I'll never forget getting out of the car and everybody coming up and taking pictures and he accommodated everyone, he loved it," Greco recalled.

Schwarzkopf was stationed at MacDill Air Force Base and served as the commander-in-chief of Central Command, the headquarters responsible for U.S. military and security concerns in nearly 20 countries from the eastern Mediterranean and Africa to Pakistan.

Schwarzkopf became "CINC-Centcom" in 1988 and when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait three years later to punish it for allegedly stealing Iraqi oil reserves, he commanded Operation Desert Storm, the coalition of some 30 countries organized by then-President George H.W. Bush that succeeded in driving the Iraqis out.

"He looked like a general, tough, big," Greco said while smiling.

Schwarzkopf retired in 1992.

In recent years, Greco said his friend fell ill calling his friend's condition "not pretty."

The general had grown weak, had a hard time moving around and could recall very little of his illustrious military career, according to Greco.

"I am not sure at the end that he knew even too much about his self," Greco said.

Greco told ABC Action News the last time he met up with Schwarzkopf he was left heartbroken because his friend no longer has the ability to do what he loved, skeet shoot.

"We are going to miss him but I assure you having seen him a year or two ago, he is in a much better place," Greco said.

Current Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn released the following statement about the general's passing:

"An adopted son of Tampa, General Schwarzkopf made his country proud and Tampa even prouder still.  He put the United States Central Command on the map and ushered in a new era at MacDill Air Force Base.  His commitment to his fellow man carried through his retirement, supporting cancer research and children through many organizations like the Ronald McDonald House. We were proud to call him a Tampanian and honored to have him as a representative of the men and women he was proud to lead."

In his retirement years, Schwarzkopf led a private life but did published an autobiography.  He also like to travel a lot, according to Greco.

The general was such a prominent figure in the Bay area, Hillsborough County Public Schools named a school in his honor.  Schwarzkopf Elementary in Lutz was dedicated in 1991 and opened its doors for the first time January 19, 1993.

Sandy Freeman, who served as Mayor of Tampa from 1986-1995, also has fond memories of the general.

"I remember him so vividly," said Freeman over the phone. "He was a larger than life fellow and I remember being there when his plane touched down at the end of the Gulf War."

Freeman held a big celebration in the general's honor at Tampa Stadium.

"It was a huge event and he was there, the troops were there and it was great for the community.  Everybody was so appreciative and then the Queen came here and I remember seeing him during that time.  He was honored by the Queen. I mean, she knighted him.  I think it was honorary but she made that trip because she was so appreciative of the efforts he had put forth on behalf of all of us during the Gulf War," Freeman added.

Schwarzkopf is survived by his wife and three children.

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