Former U.S. Rep. L.A."Skip" Bafalis, of Florida, dies in Virginia

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Former U.S. Rep. L.A. “Skip” Bafalis, of Florida, who helped bring Disney World to the state and the Matanzas Pass Bridge to Fort Myers Beach, died March 10.

He died at his Fairfax Station, Virginia, home after months of failing health. He was 93.

A loyal Republican, Bafalis was elected to the U.S. House in 1972 to represent the state in the newly formed 10th Congressional district which spanned 15,000 square miles from Palm Beach to Indian River County on the east coast. The district went across the state to Collier County and north to Pinellas County.

During his time in Florida, Bafalis lived in Fort Myers Beach and Palm Beach.

He served five terms until 1982 when he was urged to run for Florida governor against incumbent Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat. He had no plans to run until he got a call from President Ronald Reagan. He did not unseat Graham.

"He actually liked Bob Graham. They were friends," his son, Joshua Bafalis, 39, said. "He couldn't say 'no' to the president."

Before his 10 years in Congress, Bafalis served in the Florida Legislature. He was elected as a state representative in 1964 and as a state senator in 1966 until 1970.

While in the state Legislature, he served on the committee that negotiated the deal to bring Disney World to Florida, which opened Oct. 1, 1971.

At the time, Disney had purchased 27,000 acres in Central Florida and had invested $168 million to bring the largest tourist destination in the world to Florida, according to the Tampa Tribune.

"He was proud about bringing Disney to Florida," according to his son. "As a kid we went to Disney quite a bit."

While in Congress, Bafalis was known to work across the aisle for the benefit of the country. He served on the Public Works and Transportation Committee and assisted Florida U.S. Rep. Dante Fascell in securing legislation essential for the construction of roads from mainland Florida through the Florida Keys.

Bafalis is credited for securing funding to complete a missing link of Interstate 95 from Fort Pierce to Palm Beach, according to the Tampa Tribune.

He was successful in obtaining federal funding to build the current Matanzas Pass bridge to Fort Myers Beach. It replaced a swing bridge installed in 1927.

Construction of the new bridge began in 1977 and it opened two years later at 65 feet in height to accommodate the region’s shrimping vessels. At the time it was the tallest bridge in Lee County until 2007 when a new span of the Sanibel Causeway was built at 70 feet in height.

The new Matanzas bridge was part of a $5 million construction project that included a new bridge across Hurricane Pass, construction of a concrete fishing pier beneath the bridge and a loop road under the bridge, according to a Oct. 15, 1979 article in the Fort Myers News-Press.

He later moved to the Ways and Means Committee where he was noted for his work to reform federal estate taxes.

Washington Post columnist Jack Anderson named Bafalis one of three Congressional members with the 'most integrity' for not accepting Political Action Committee (PAC) money.

"He always kept his word," according to his son. "He always told me in life you can do anything in this world. He helped me with my homework at night."

In Florida, spare time was spent in his sailboat traveling to the Florida Keys.

"He loved to sail," his son said. "He spent a lot of time all around Florida."

In 1988 he ran for Florida’s newly formed 13th Congressional district that included Fort Myers but lost in the Republican primary to Porter Goss who was a Lee County Commissioner at the time. Goss served in Congress from 1989 to 2004.

Bafalis was born in Boston, Massachusetts; his father was an immigrant from Greece and his maternal grandparents came from Sweden.

He graduated in 1948 from Manchester Central High School in Manchester, New Hampshire. He attended Saint Anselm College in neighboring Goffstown. He served in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1956 where he reached the rank of Captain. After military service, he moved to Florida in 1956.Following his years in public service, Bafalis engaged in a series of entrepreneurial activities and was active in Florida's booming real estate industry.

He served in Washington in the government affairs sector before settling at Alcalde & Fay in 1990 where he was instrumental in helping the firm become one of the biggest in the industry.

Most of his clients were cities, counties and other public entities in Florida. He assisted in securing federal assistance for various projects that were critical to their well-being. He remained an active partner at the firm until his passing.He is survived by his wife Charlotte M. Bafalis; daughter Renee Bafalis' sons Gregory Bafalis and Joshua Bafalis; daughter-in-law Lindsay Bafalis; and grandchildren Yhobi Justiniano, Alexa Walkerow, Agatha Galletly, Olivia Garcia, Greg "LG" Bafalis, Matthew Silva Justiniano, Benjamin Bafalis, Charlotte "Lotte" Bafalis & Isabelle Bafalis; and great granddaughter Brooke Galletly. He is also remembered by his former wife, Mary Bafalis.

Bafalis will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery.

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Former Florida U.S. Rep. L.A. "Skip" Bafalis dies at 93