More than 200 people turned out last week to remember Danny Wilkes, who for many years was the face of the Tampa Electric Co. in this area.
Wilkes, a Plant City native, worked with TECO for 40 years, serving as its community relations director before retiring in 2005. During the 1980s and early-1990s, Wilkes was an active member of the local business community. He served as the chairman of the Greater Plant City Chamber of Commerce in 1994 and 1999 and served on the board of the chamber's Economic Development Council from its inception in 1992 until he retired from TECO.
Wilkes died Aug. 31 after a long illness. He was 69.
Rev. Tom Thoeni, the pastor of St. Peter's Episcopal Church, which hosted a memorial service for Wilkes on Thursday, remembered him as a tireless volunteer and longtime leader in the church.
"Danny was determined, a hard worker and a fighter to the very end," Thoeni said. "Danny showed the same dedication to his family, his job, the community and to his church. His work ethic was amazing. When you look around our church, there is nowhere you can look that wasn't built, repaired or tended to by Danny. He was an important part of church leadership, and in his quiet way was a pillar in the community for many years."
Former city manager Phil Waldron worked with Wilkes on the economic development council, helping companies that wanted to expand and trying to lure new businesses to Plant City.
"He was on top of every project we ever took on," Waldron said. "He was very detail-oriented, professional and really all-business. He was an excellent liaison between TECO and the community, even in his retirement. He will be missed."
Willkes graduated from Plant City High School in 1961 and then attended Daytona Beach Junior college before going to work with TECO in 1965.
Throughout his career, his devotion to his hometown was evident.
"As a native son, he was a perfect fit for his job as community relations director in our town," City Commissioner Dan Raulerson said. "TECO and the community both profited from his efforts. Danny worked hard behind the scenes to get the job done. He was really an icon in this town but never sought the limelight.
"Danny was the perfect example of 'I don't care who gets the credit, as long as the job gets done.' He lived his life that way."
Wilkes did lots of things to benefit the community, families and individuals that he never talked about, said his wife of 47 years, Jayne.
"He was not someone who sought recognition or praise, not even from his family," she said. "Danny would be recognized for something he helped accomplish in the city, and it would be the first I had heard of it. He worked hard but never looked for personal gain."
In addition to his wife, Wilkes is survived by daughters Lisa Wilkes-Corbett and Pam Malenfant, four grandchildren and several nieces, nephews and cousins.