Richard DeWitt’s brother-in-law Jeff Kindler marveled at DeWitt’s adaptability.
“You could drop Richard into the middle of a Manhattan cocktail party, a Catskills coffee shop, a St. Louis Rotary Club meeting, a Southern California boys’ weekend in tents, a Polish town square, a village in Kenya, a rainforest in Peru. Put him in any situation, with any type of people, in any place on the planet. And, in an hour, he would know his way around as well as the locals and have at least 10 new best friends for life,” Kindler said at DeWitt’s recent funeral.
DeWitt, a former Miami police sergeant turned Coral Gables attorney who served on numerous city boards, died on March 29 after a heart attack. He was 69.
DeWitt, an arts lover, cigar and spirits connoisseur, who also loved fishing in Key Largo, met his wife, Luba, 34 years ago while visiting Slovakia. “He was a dashing American, full of energy and an incredible curiosity,” she said at his funeral. When they met her command of English was elementary, she said, and she’d never been to America. But 10 days after they met he proposed.
“There was not one dull moment with Richard,” Luba DeWitt said. He taught her to walk through the Everglades muck and enjoy it and how to camp in the swamps without fear. She taught him to ski and appreciate foreign films with subtitles. Together, they traveled and opened their home in the Gables to visiting dignitaries and fellow arts lovers.
“There was never a fear of the unknown,” she said. “Discovering the unknown and going on an adventure was the ultimate goal for Richard.”
Born in Sunnyside, New York, DeWitt moved to Key Biscayne in 1949 when he was 2. He’d remain a proud “Key Rat” until a move to Coral Gables in 1987.
DeWitt started his career at age 20 in 1967 as a police officer in the Miami Police Department, where he remained for 12 years, attaining the rank of sergeant. While working as a cop, he attended business school at Florida International University and earned his bachelor’s degree in 1975. He earned his law degree from the University of Miami in 1979.
In 1991, he founded Quest Group International, an early provider of prepaid calling cards in the U.S. Before Quest, Dewitt was a partner at Shutts & Bowen, where he practiced commercial law, and at Squire Sanders, where he helped resolve disputes as part of the takeover of several failed banks during the savings and loan crisis in the early 1980s. More recently, he was a principal at DeWitt Law and partner at DeWitt Grossman, where he focused on technology and telecommunications law.
DeWitt was a member of the International Academy of Mediators, the College of Commercial Arbitrators and a founding member of Mediators Beyond Borders. He was involved in numerous local organizations, including the Rotary Club of Coral Gables, the 200 Club of Greater Miami, and the American Czech-Slovak Cultural Club in North Miami. In 2003, he helped found the Coral Gables Museum.
He served as a trustee for the Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg and as the director of the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce. DeWitt was also a board member of the Coral Gables Community Foundation and vice president of the Coral Gables Good Government Committee.
“Richard was a caring and concerned resident of his beloved Coral Gables,” said former mayor, Don Slesnick. “When needed to work for his fellow citizens, he was ready, willing and able to serve in whichever capacity he was needed. Over the years, he served on four different city boards demonstrating his effective leadership style in each instance. When we needed a person to guide the Economic Development Board through the fiscal trials and tribulations of the early 21st Century it was Richard who was the chairman for six consecutive years.”
More recently, DeWitt was an appointee to the city’s Code Enforcement Board and Charter Review Committee. Said Slesnick, “He and his wife, Luba, were active participants in the Sister City program and traveled — at their own expense — with our delegations to Pisa, Granada, Aix-en-Provence and La Antiqua. They were superb ambassadors for the City Beautiful.”
DeWitt’s survivors also include his children Tina Krablin, Rick and Sasha DeWitt, and grandchildren Ethan, Delaney, Liam and Sidney. Services were held. Donations in his name may be made to the 200 Club of Greater Miami.