As the nation reflects on the life and achievements of General Norman Schwarzkopf, people in the Tampa Bay area are remembering his life after retirement as a father, friend and philanthropist. Tampa developer Al Austin met General Schwarzkopf after he moved to the Bay area to retire.
"He walks into a room. He's got a certain aura about him, and it kinda makes you immediately respect him, but he also has a charisma where you feel comfortable in his presence," Austin said.
Austin encouraged Schwarzkopf to introduce President George H.W. Bush at a fundraiser in Tampa. He attended a Super Bowl with him in Miami with former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga. Austin said Schwarzkopf always attracted a crowd.
"When we pull up there, he gets up out of the limo, the General did, and people swarmed around him. And Dick, being a politician, said ‘this guy could run for president, he's so popular,' " Austin recalled.
It was a suggestion made by many who believed the General would make a good leader.
"He felt good that he had fulfilled, not only all his obligations, but he went over the top and he really did and in his day, he was a role model, he was the hero and people talked about him running for president. And with his charisma, if we had a Norman Schwarzkopf today as a candidate, he would get elected," Austin said.
In retirement, the General also had time to reflect on the war on Iraq.
"He did everything that they allowed them to do. I think that he would've preferred not to have, you know, they sat down and made peace with Saddam Hussein, and he felt that it would have been better if they had finished the job then," Austin said.
In their personal lives, the General and Austin shared a common battle with prostate cancer.
"So, I chose to have the surgery like he did, and that was the best thing I ever did and then after that, I became an advocate and then he helped us."
He said Schwarzkopf spoke at many prostate cancer fundraisers. He lived on Harbor Island with his wife Brenda, son Christian and two daughters Cynthia and Jessica.
"He loved his kids. That was so important to him," said Austin, "Norm liked to hunt and his son Christian, he'd take him hunting, fishing."
However, Austin admits that the family became less public in recent years as Schwarzkopf suffered a slew of health problems.
"Brenda had become a close friend of my wife and, they did a lot of things together, still do. Not so much the last three years. She was constantly with him and she just stopped doing everything," Austin said.
Reflecting on his career, Austin said that Schwarzkopf knew how to strike a delicate balance.
"They called him ‘Stormin' Norman' and all, but he had, if he was mad, he'd be somebody that you didn't want to deal with. You know, and that's what a General has to be, he has to be a tough enough guy when a condition is warranted and have enough compassion when someone is hurt and you want to help them, and he had that," Austin explained.
That quality was reflected in his work with children's charities following his retirement. He did so much for the local community, according to Austin.
"They're wonderful people, wonderful people. We need more people like Norm Schwarzkopf, you know, leaders. Somebody that's a real leader that people can feel comfortable with, and he was that type of person."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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