Myra Chandler-Haas accepts the 2005 Marcia P. Hoffman Arts Education Award.
Myra Chandler-Haas, the founder of the Belleair Bee and other community papers, had a nose for news and wanted to make sure it was printed correctly.
“She was always involved. She was always out there taking pictures, attending meetings,” her daughter, Cindy Curls, said Jan. 19.
Chandler-Haas, 93, died Jan. 12, 2013 of natural causes.
A former owner of seven newspapers in the Detroit area, Chandler-Haas moved to this area in 1969 and started a Wicker World store in Belleair Bluffs. Later, she and her friend, Wilsie Carr, talked about starting a newspaper.
“With mom’s background and knowledge, Willsie and Bob Carr’s backing, that’s how it began,” Curls said.
Chandler-Haas 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.
“Bob was the business manager. Wilsie was the idea person and I was the writer. And, my kids delivered it. Our offices were upstairs at Wicker World. I had a typewriter, telephone and a notepad. That was about it,” she said in a 2005 interview with Tampa Bay Newspapers.
Social news was very important to her. She said it was important to care and be involved in the community.
The first photo on the cover of the Bee was about a tree-planting ceremony.
Chandler-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 as a sales manager 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.
In an interview with Tampa Bay Newspapers at the time, Chandler-Haas said, “I 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 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 retiring once again, though she was involved in community news for many years after.
As a mother, Chandler-Haas was someone to be reckoned with, Curls said.
“She wanted us to be the best we possibly could. She didn’t want us to volunteer for anything except what we believed in,” she said. “She believed in honesty and truth. She really believed in helping people.
Chandler-Haas is survived by four children, eight grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. Her most recent husband, Arthur Haas, died in the 1980s.
A memorial service for family and friends was held Jan. 16. Donations can be made to Ruth Eckerd Hall or Suncoast Hospice.