When he wasn’t speaking out on a local political issue – which was frequently – or serving on some community task force, Chuck Pardee was busy trying to preserve Ocala’s history or helping raise money for some local cause.
“He was always doing something for somebody,” his wife, Debi, said this week. “Helping people, that’s what he did.”
Charles Willis Pardee Jr., 68, a visible and vocal figure on the Ocala/Marion County civic scene for more than three decades, died on April 19, 2022. The cause of death was cancer.
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A fifth-generation Floridian, Pardee was born on Oct. 1, 1953, at what was then Munroe Hospital. I have attended Marion County Public Schools and Central Florida Community College.
Throughout his life, he had a number of careers, most notably in real estate and property management.
But it was civic affairs and politics that were his passion. Pardee served on dozens of civic committees and chaired many of them, including the Marion County Regulatory Review Advisory Board, chairman; Marion County Road Finance Task Force, chairman; Chamber of Commerce Transportation Committee, chairman; and the North Florida High-Speed Rail Task Force, co-chairman.
He was also the founder and first president of the Republican Business Council and served on the Marion County Republican Executive Committee. He was elected Marion County’s Republican State Committeeman in 2016 and served in that capacity until last year.
He also served as Marion County campaign chairman for two presidential candidates: Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Pardee ran for political office twice, both times seeking a seat on the Marion County Commission – first in 1990 and again in 1992. While he lost both times – the 1990 race for just 73 votes – he was proud of his campaigns.
“Not once did I tell one group of people one thing and then tell another group something else,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “I wanted people to know upfront where I stood, and for that I will forever feel pride, even in losing.”
He also was proud of the fact that he was the first candidate in Marion County to get on the ballot by way of petition signatures instead of paying a filing fee, something that not only is common but routine nowadays.
“When I ran in 1992, I ran by petition,” he wrote. “When I qualified, our late supervisor of elections, Dee Brown, told me, ‘Chuck, we have checked the records and found you are the very first candidate in Marion County history to qualify by petition in a countywide race.’ ”
In his free time, Pardee enjoyed fishing, writing poetry and his family. He was active in his churches of him, first at First Assembly of God and later at Church of the Springs.
He also was the founder of the annual Campfire Breakfast on the Ocklawaha, a major event that was held annually on Pardee’s riverfront property to raise money for Interfaith Emergency Services.
History, especially Marion County history, was one of Pardee’s other loves. He was a vocal advocate for restoring Fort King, and he led efforts to name major local roads for important historical figures in our community, lest they be forgotten – including Bonnie Health Boulevard (US 27), Osceola Boulevard (Southeast 31st Street/Southwest 42nd Street), and the soon-to-be-built Farris Bryant Avenue (Southwest/Northwest 44th Avenue).
An informal gathering to honor Pardee will be held on Saturday at 11 am at Hiers-Baxley Funeral Home on Silver Springs Boulevard in Ocala.
Pardee is survived by his wife, Debi; mother, Emily; children Emily Innes and Charles Willis Pardee III (Lizzi Kintz); grandchildren Dallas Innes, Weston Innes, Maysee Innes and, coming soon, Romona Pardee; brothers Richard, Mike and Russell (Rossi); an uncle, Billy Rizer, and an aunt, Mamie Kovacs; and numerous nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his father, Charles Sr., who died in 1997.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that friends make a donation to the American Cancer Society or a charity of their choice in Pardee’s name.
Brad Rogers is the former editorial editor of the Star-Banner