Great honor! I was commissioned to paint that portrait of a legendary Bill Shumate for one of the legendary restaurants in Tampa – Bella’s.
Today great South Tampa restaurant Bella’s celebrated 35 anniversary and honored memory of Bill Shumate. And unveiling of his portrait which I completed recently. The ceremony of that celebration, the speeches and unveiling of the portrait were emotional and beautiful. It was an honor. PS restaurant Bella’s is one of the oldest restaurants in Tampa. And a destination! Come there for a great dinner and to see that portrait. Their address:
Bella’s Italian Café : 1413 S Howard Ave #100, Tampa, FL 33606
I want to share with you just one speech from that event. By Jason Dyer and with his permission to publish it here. It touched many hearts and I am sure it will touch yours. Here it is “Three lessons in life” – letter to Bill from Jason.
I have an endless personal litany of stories of you and how you impacted my life. Even one about a stripper giving you a lap-dance at Bella’s on your birthday. That was from Lou Bergio and Louie would always say “what a nice party”. But it goes way beyond me. It goes way beyond any individual. Whether you intended for it to or not what you did everyday, you built. You taught me how to build and in so many ways I have failed. But so did you. And that doesn’t matter because Mom and you taught me to grit and bare and learn. Do the work. You built a community. Something that will last. That’s very rare. You were and will always be very rare.
So the first memory was when I was about 10 years old. It was just me and you and we were watching TV. But you kept getting up about every 10 minutes to go to the bathroom. What I didn’t know was that you had a colonoscopy scheduled for the next day. So, at one point you sat back down and winced like you were in incredible pain. I ask: “Ate you okay?” And you responded: “No damn it, my butt hurts!!!” And then you laughed. That’s when I learned to laugh at everything you can.
I remember so many things, but the most impactful came in the last few years because it brought back so much I had forgotten. I had come back for you and Joanie and Jarrod and Jenna. And there were some familial things and business things going on, but you sat me down and genuinely questioned, not interrogated (which you could do from time to time), but you just wanted to know what was going on. And I told you. I told you everything. I trusted you. And you heard me. Every detail, you got it. You would self-admit you were losing your mind, but you found clarity at times. You’re one of the smartest people I’ve known if not THE smartest person I have ever known and you knew what needed to be done. You told me I needed to be better. And I was mad at you at first until I really though about what you really meant. You always asked yourself to be better before asking anyone else to do the same. You didn’t mean I always would succeed at it or that I had to be the best. Just be a little better whenever you can. You and Joanie built your family, friends, community and business based on that. That all is foundation on love and trust. I always trusted you. I always heard you. We heard you. In life that is all we can hope for from those closest to us. And you didn’t HAVE to do it. You CHOSE to do it. I am not your blood. But I am your son. Forever. You’ll always be Bill. You’ll be my pops.
The last thing I will say is another story of enduring love and strength and God damn it get your shit together Jason! My mom and pops used to throw parties and they liked Jarrod and me to be there. Be social. We were both young so I was probably 13 at the time, That would make Jarrod 17 or so. I know I look older, but that’s been that way for a bit. Well one person was being a dick to me about something and forgive him, he was young, but it hurt and I cried and retreated to my room. Bill was furious with me. He wanted me downstairs and present and part of the party. He saw how broken I was though and shut his mouth. He listened. He heard me. Then he gave me the only hug I can still feel. I feel it every time I am at my worst. When I need most. That is who Bill was. That was and still is Pops. He’d love and fight for you in the hardest ways. He’d give you everything he had. And also he let me go from that hug and went downstairs and tore Jarrod a new a-hole. But we both needed, when we both needed, when our mother needed, when we all needed, Bill was there.
So, with too many lessons learned, I have to narrow it down to three.
- laugh at everything you can.
- Love intensely
- Be Better
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