Obituary of Richard L Mensh
Richard Mensh, 89, of St. Petersburg, died July 19, 2023. Born in 1933 to a secretary and a salesman in the rural town of Fellsmere, FL, Richard was the eldest of 3 boys. The family moved to Tampa to find a Jewish community, where Richard’s mother, Rebecca, found a secretarial job at Congregation Schaarai Zedek. Her 3 boys grew up to become 2 lawyers and a dentist. Richard served in the Korean War, then, on the GI bill, attended Stetson Law School in St. Petersburg. In 1962 he began a distinguished 40-year career as a prosecutor, serving as Chief Assistant State Attorney. His professional reputation as a dedicated, hard-nosed crusader for justice was equaled by his personal reputation as a no-nonsense, charismatic, polite Southern gentleman with a passion for living life to its fullest.
Professionally, “Dick” Mensh struck fear into the hearts of criminals, prosecuting high-profile murder and corruption cases in Pinellas, Pasco, and other Florida counties. For example, Dick successfully prosecuted an infamous murder in Gulfport, becoming the subject of the television series “The Perfect Murder”, season 2 episode 7: “Kill Thy Neighbor”. Dick’s prosecutorial career is also well-characterized in the 2003 Tampa Bay Times article “Courtroom Cowboy Says Adios”. He also had a successful private practice: Mensh, Mensh, Zacur, and Graham, which included his brother Myron, also a state prosecutor.
Richard’s passion for the thrill of living life was evident in his hobbies. He was a private pilot, flying dozens of airplanes including the J-3 Cub stunt-plane. He also raised and rode horses. He kept horses and airplanes at what is now Seminole golf and country club. Before widespread housing development, he rode his horses down Park St. to his home in Jungle Prada, St. Pete.
At the age of 23, Richard met his future wife, Gerry. They married in 1958 and adopted two children, Alison and Brett. Despite his prodigious work responsibilities, Richard was an exceptionally devoted father, attending and participating as coach or umpire for all manner of sporting events. His retirement years revolved around family and friends. They traveled extensively. They summered in Winter Park, CO and wintered in Steamboat Springs, with many cruises and other adventures in between.
Richard served as President of Congregation Bnai Israel synagogue in the 1970s. Because he was a native rural Floridian with a southern drawl, he was known as the “Jewish Cracker”, popularizing the phrase “Shalom y’all.” He also instituted the now customary practice of extending the hand of friendship to neighbors at the conclusion of services.
He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Geraldine, his daughter and son-in-law Alison and Dr. George Hitzel, his son and daughter-in-law Drs. Brett Mensh and Kimmi Hoang, and grandchildren Miranda and Nicholas Hitzel. The family suggests memorials be made to Congregation Bnai Israel in St. Petersburg.
Services 10 AM Sunday, July 23, 2023 at Congregation B'nai Israel, 300 58th Street North, ST. Petersburg. Burial following at Chapel Hill Memorial Park in Largo.
The service will be live streamed at
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