Remembering Tom Petty, fellow Floridian

- Fans are mourning the death of rock icon and Florida native Tom Petty, who passed away after going into cardiac arrest at his California home.

Petty, 66, was found unconscious Monday and rushed to a hospital where he later died.

The music legend grew up in Gainesville and, according to his biography, eventually made his way south down Interstate 75, briefly working at a funeral home in St. Petersburg and spending time in Tampa.

Petty, during his time as a solo artist and with his band the Heartbreakers, always had a strong following in his home state.

"I became a Tom Petty fan early on. I'm a singer-songwriter myself and so I always admired his singing and his songwriting and just his musicianship," said Keith Koehler, an accountant and co-owner of Westshore Pizza in Tampa, who also covers Petty's music in a local band.

Koehler was also raised in Gainesville, where his parents owned one of the few music stores in town.

He became such a big fan of Tom Petty that he eventually bought a pair of rare guitars signed by the rock star.

"It's actually signed by Tom Petty on the label. They made 274 and they were all signed and numbered," Koehler told FOX 13, as he showed off one of his guitars. "They're highly collectible. They're impossible to find."

Koehler said he couldn't believe the news that Petty had passed away.

"It's stunning, really. I don't even have any words for it. It's just stunning to lose somebody who was so significant in the music world," he said.

It's even harder for Petty's friends to comprehend.

"It's always tough to lose somebody. Especially someone you think is a voice for your generation," said Mike Boulware, who was Petty's classmate in Gainesville and sang in chorus with him. "He was a quiet guy. He wasn't a super outgoing guy and, like I've said many times, he was not the guy we all picked to be the rock star from around here."

Dave Haley, who works at Replay Guitar Exchange in South Tampa, said while he'll always love Petty's music, he was also really impacted by Petty's death; Haley survived a heart attack.

"I didn't believe it was true, but sadly he passed," Haley said. "It was a shock that he's 66 years old and passed so quickly. If there's a message there, go to your cardiologist to get checked out."

Petty's stops in Tampa Bay included shows at the Bayfront Center, Sun Dome and Ice Palace/Tampa Bay Times Forum/Amalie Arena. He performed six times between 2002 and 2017, including his last concert at Amalie in May.

Up Next:


Up Next

  • Remembering Tom Petty, fellow Floridian
  • Deputies: Women held in storage unit for prostution
  • Couple finds dead python in Manatee County
  • 'We are heavily armed,' Tampa church warns
  • FDLE joins hunt for Seminole Heights killer
  • Boy killed after getting off school bus remembered by family
  • Police horse in St. Pete paints masterpieces during downtime
  • Drive-by shooting in SE Seminole Heights unrelated to murders
  • Bowling hobby becomes livelihood for Polk Co. man
  • Harlem Globetrotters' name 15th ever female teammate