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Bee founder and local civic leader dies
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Myra Chandler Haas, left, talks to the crowd as she and Terry McHarg accept the Marcia P. Hoffman Arts Education Award in 2005.
Myra Chandler-Haas, 93, “a leading lady at Ruth Eckerd Hall” and the founder of the Belleair Bee and other community newspapers, died Jan. 12.

A veteran journalist who to retired to Florida in 1969 after selling her seven weekly newspapers in suburban Detroit, Chandler-Haas of Clearwater launched the Belleair Bee in May 1976, the Largo Leader in May 1977 and Beach Bee in October 1978. She was involved with other publications that followed.

A civic-minded businesswoman, Haas was actively involved with many arts organizations, including the Fine Arts Society and the National Society of Arts and Letters, in addition to being a supporter of Ruth Eckerd Hall since its inception, she hosted one of the first parties that raised funds for the hall’s groundbreaking.

“She was an inspiration to so many people,” said Sue Osborne, who worked with Chandler-Haas for 10 years at the Bee and its sister publications.

“Not only to people who worked for her and with her in the newspaper business, but to so many organizations and charities and so forth that she supported for the whole time she was there and for a long time after she was gone because she taught us well. She taught a lot of people the meaning of community newspaper,” Osborne said.

Chandler-Haas was passionate about the arts, Osborne said.

“She was one of the leading ladies at Ruth Eckerd Hall for many years,” Osborne said.

She was also instrumental in helping to build Largo Central Park. The newspaper promoted the project and was a huge sponsor of it as well as the construction of the Largo Cultural Center, Osborne said.

Chandler-Haas’ “ability to make people feel that they were important” were among her greatest strengths as a newspaper publisher and community leader.

“Because no matter who you were, Myra could make you feel like you were the most important person in the room,” Osborne said.

For her support of Eckerd Hall Youth Scholarship program, Chandler-Haas received the Marcia P. Hoffman Arts Education Award in November 2005.

In an interview with Tampa Bay Newspapers at the time, Chandler-Haas said, “immediately saw the need for community newspapers in the area so I founded the Belleair Bee 30 years ago and later added the Largo Leader and other newspapers.”

According to a history of the publication that is part of the Tampa Bay Newspapers, Chandler-Haas told a former publisher in that she took pride that the Bee “never lost one dime from the day of conception.”

She published the local papers for 10 years before once again “retiring.”
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