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Florida Aquarium founder Bill Crown dies at 80

"Bill’s presence will forever be felt at The Florida Aquarium," its CEO said, in part.

TAMPA, Fla. — Bill Crown, who was the founding member of The Florida Aquarium organization, has died. He was 80 years old.

The longtime Clearwater resident learned in December he had stage four pancreatic cancer and, according to his obituary, "wanted his death to be a testament of his faith." Crown celebrated his birthday with friends and family on Jan. 4.

"I understand this is terminal, there is no need to fight. I am at peace with the Lord and want to spend the rest of my days as joyfully as possible," reads Crown's words from his obituary.

He founded The Florida Aquarium Inc. in 1986, which would become the foundation for the Tampa-based aquarium and its grand opening in 1995. Tripadvisor ranks it among the best in the U.S.

"Bill was one of the driving forces behind opening The Florida Aquarium more than 25-years ago," said Roger Germann, The Florida Aquarium president and CEO in a statement. "It was his vision to create a conservation-based aquarium that would inspire, educate and captivate children and adults alike. He worked tirelessly to gather the financial backing for the Aquarium, along the way always encouraging others to protect Florida’s precious natural environment.  

"While we have lost a great ambassador and friend, Bill’s presence will forever be felt at The Florida Aquarium."

Crown enjoyed fishing, waterskiing and, more recently, golfing at the Belleair Country Club. 

He is survived by his wife of 48 years, Bette; two sons and four daughters, and several grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, people are asked to consider a donation in his name to the Church of the Ascension, Florida Wildlife Corridor, the Community Dental Clinic or the Salvation Army.