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Dennis Alfonso remembered with fondness

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By STEVE STEINER

Ask about Dennis Alfonso. Whether a board of education member with the Hernando County School District (HCSD) or the Pasco County School District (PCSD), they will tell you he was one of a kind, as both an attorney who served as legal counsel to both school boards and as a person many of them got to know as a friend or close associate.

Without a doubt, though, the person who knew him best was his wife, Nancy, who met him when each attended law school at the Gulfport campus of Stetson University. Her husband, she said, came from a family of architects, and he, himself, was going to follow in the family’s footsteps. However, while attending the University of Florida, he switched his major to Political Science and, from there, the legal profession

“He fell in love with the law, school law particularly,” said Nancy, which was how he eventually came to serve on both school boards, as well as becoming a member of the Florida School Board Attorneys Association. “He really loved what he did. He was really good.” The past several years were exciting for him, she continued. “He loved the challenges COVID brought,” she said.

He also loved being a musician, a hobby of his that began when he took up the guitar as a high school student. In adult life, he played with a fellow attorney, Larry Hersch, and with several others to form a band that often played at parties.

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“It was a fun thing for him,” said Nancy. “He loved everything about music.” She added that just like his attorney skills, as a musician, he “really was good.”

THE SCHOOL YEARS
Dennis Alfonso began serving as the Hernando School District attorney in 2011. A year later, he added the Pasco School District as its attorney to his resume through the law firm McLain and Alfonso (now Alfonso and Hersch; Joe A. McLain was the founding member and father of Nancy. Years later after he retired and then passed away, the law firm was renamed).

His presence and impact on both school boards were immeasurable, both as an attorney and as an individual. Members of the Pasco School District and Board of Education were effusive in their recollections of Alfonso.

His input proved valuable, and for many of them, especially those who only joined the school board in recent years, he helped guide them.

The same rang true with the Hernando School District. At Alfonso’s passing, in a news release issued June 2 by School Board Chair Gus Guadagnino, the role Alfonso fulfilled was significant.

“As the advisor to the school board, Dennis was knowledgeable, responsive, and patient as he guided us through our work,” Guadagnino stated in the news release (which is also posted on the school district’s website). ” As a person, he was kind, patient, musically gifted, and a genuinely wonderful human being.”

HCSD board member Mark Johnson was equally touching in his recounting of Dennis Alfonso.

“Dennis was a very nice person, a remarkable person,” said Johnson. “He was thoughtful as an attorney. He had that ‘attorney’ way about explaining something, and then he would give you another point to consider.”

His relationship with board member Linda Prescott extended even further. “He was one of my best friends on the board,” she said. She went on to further state he ” … was one of the smartest, kindest, and most thoughtful men I have had the pleasure of knowing.

“When he passed away, I felt like I lost a very dear friend who I admired greatly.” She also praised his demeanor, that Alfonso responded professionally and factually to questions asked by board members, whether at meetings, on the telephone, or by email.

“Everyone had great respect for his knowledge and expertise and always knew he had the best interests of the Board in responding,” said Prescott.

HIS PASSING
According to Nancy, her husband was diagnosed in 2013 with tonsil cancer. However, treatment was successful, and the disease went into remission. Sadly, it returned in May 2022.

This past May 13, he passed away at age 59; he was born April 30, 1964.

HONORING HIS MEMORY
While the Pasco School Board honored the late Dennis Alfonso with flowers placed on the dais in front of the seat where he sat, as of this writing, the Hernando School District is still working on how it will pay tribute to him.

To his wife, Nancy, her husband had a saying that had a prominent place on his desk; one she wishes those who knew her husband to remember him by. It reads:

“Lord, grant that I may be able in argument, accurate in analysis, strict in study, candid with clients, and honest with adversaries. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my client’s plaints, read with me in my library, and stand beside me in court, so that today I shall not in order to win a point, lose my soul.”
— Sir Thomas More

WHAT IS TONSIL CANCER
Tonsil cancer is an abnormal growth of cells that forms in a tonsil. The tonsils are two oval-shaped pads in the back of the mouth that are part of a body’s germ-fighting immune system.

Tonsil cancer can cause difficulty swallowing and a sensation that something is caught in your throat. Tonsil cancer is often diagnosed late in the disease, when cancer has spread to nearby areas, such as the lymph nodes in the neck.

Treatments for tonsil cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy.

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