The temptation might be to think that the election killed Ed Havill.
After all, the larger-than-life property appraiser died just days after he stunningly lost the office he'd held for 36 years to an archrival, former state Sen. Carey Baker, in a bitter election.
"I've never been in a campaign like this before," Havill lamented shortly before the election.
And there he sat as the returns flashed across the overhead screen in the county's round courthouse on voting day Aug. 14 — his face blank, his usual loud joviality gone, the telltale figures appearing again and again as each precinct was counted and posted.
Don't let that little tableau fool you.
Those who believe that the feisty 71-year-old property appraiser succumbed Saturday to the rigor of the campaign and the gut punch of losing clearly didn't know Ed Havill. The man never gave up.
His steel will and faith in God — bolstered by the backing of the family he considered most precious — kept him not just going but literally zinging along as he fought the leukemia that invaded his life five years ago.
For several years, Havill had been under experimental treatment that required constant blood transfusions and trips to doctors in Texas. His chances of surviving more than five years was 4 percent. No one would have known it.
Havill did a little jig in the lobby of the Lake Sentinel office a couple weeks ago.
"Do I look like an invalid?" he demanded in his trademark gravely boom.
Of course not. His imposing presence seldom appeared weak, even when his health was at its worst and he had to use an inhaler to get from his Tavares office to his car in the parking lot.
But now, he is gone.
Havill was mowing his lawn when chest pains hit him. He suffered a heart attack, and paramedics could not save him.
Havill wasn't always the most popular of elected officials, though he did start that way.
Shortly after being elected for the first time in 1976, Havill created Floridians for Tax Relief, a tax-cutting lobby to promote "Proposition 1," an ill-fated initiative to limit property taxes. Havill traveled Florida, stirring tax-weary citizens, gathering petitions and stoking smoldering grass-roots discontent into a statewide blaze.
He was the single, dashing young property appraiser from a virtually unknown Central Florida county, burning with political philosophies that invariably turned out to media-worthy. Then, the Supreme Court declined to put Prop 1 before voters.
Havill came home and hit a rough patch. He and his girlfriend spent two years at each other's throats with a flurry of accusations and one all-too-colorful incident involving the destruction of a door, all of which made headlines. At one point, Havill, with his hair-trigger temper, was charged with two counts of battery, to which he pleaded no contest.
In late 1985, Havill ran newspaper ads threatening not to grant homestead exemptions to people without a Florida tag on their cars, a Florida drivers license and a registration to vote in the state.
This did not go over well with everyone.
Still, Havill's reputation as a skinflint with tax dollars convinced voters that he was on their side — he was — and he easily won re-election in 1988, despite a stiff challenge from a well-known and respected candidate.
Much of that turnaround in image was due to the calming influence of his new wife, Donna Dickens, a hometown girl he married in 1987. Donna smoothed Havill's sharp edges and focused his boundless energy. If ever a good woman was the salvation of an ambitious but erratic man, it was Donna.
They had two daughters together, and Havill's life began to revolve around his church and his family, which also included a third daughter and a son from a previous marriage.
It was from this stable perch that Havill faced the most serious challenges of his life — the death of his oldest daughter and his own diagnosis with leukemia.
He rose to both with a rare courage. Although he grieved terribly for daughter Leah, Havill had the fortitude to persevere and to emerge from the experience a more understanding man. Even his political detractors found it impossible not to admire his spit-in-your-eye courage when it came to his illness, especially as he cheerfully ticked off the odds against his survival.
One thing for sure: Ed Havill was no whiner. He was a fighter and a man true to his strongly held core beliefs. He didn't care whether it was politically correct to support you. He didn't care whether anyone agreed with him. He was simply driven to live what he believed.
If only we all had that gift.
In 2008, Havill described his fight with leukemia as just another challenge.
"If you look at the whole Earth, there are so many bigger problems. People in Iraq are losing their legs and arms and lives.
"Everything is relative."
For him, the outcome of his battle with that vicious disease was a foregone conclusion. Ed declared himself the winner, regardless of life or death.
"The only thing I remember when I was 14, and my dad died, was that I promised the Lord I wouldn't take my last breath and say, 'I wasted the life you gave me.'
"I've lived more than a full life. I accepted Christ years ago, so I've always had in my mind that living is like being elected: If they want to keep me, they will."
Lritchie@tribune.com. Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlake.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times