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The five stories for which the Times' Leonora LaPeter Anton won the National Headliner for feature writing

'Well, first of all you have to believe.'


'Well, first of all you have to believe.'



She won, and wasn't the Times' only winner, either. Janet Keeler and Ivan Penn won, too, for special or feature column on one subject and for business coverage, respectively. Here are the stories from Leonora's superlative portfolio:

1. Taking the waters at Warm Mineral Springs:

NORTHPORT — Aging men and women in robes and floppy hats moved purposefully past the ticket gate, through a tunnel that smelled of sulphur, down a path where New Age music piped from speakers hidden in the bougainvillea beds.

The dark spring, surrounded by live oaks and palm trees and a long row of purple chairs, glistened before them in the bright sunlight.

Men in Speedos with protruding bellies disrobed to reveal fading bypass surgery scars — testament, they said, to the water's healing properties. Women in fancy hats with bows and feathers flexed their arthritis-free fingers.

They were all eager to plunge into the mineral-rich water, to steep their bodies for hours in the precious elixir, to extract every ounce of rejuvenating strength from the Fountain of Youth before time runs out.

2. The divorce from hell:

CLEARWATER — Terry Power's face tightened as he listened to his wife's attorney tick off their assets on the final day of his divorce trial. He sat in a leather chair at a glass-covered table inside a paneled judicial chamber and he thought not for the first time that her voice annoyed him.

He let his gaze drift briefly to the right beyond the judge, to the view of spindly palm trees swaying slightly in front of the glistening Intracoastal Waterway. How stunning it was out there. How stifling in here.

3. Mentor made the difference for homeless teen with dream to fly:

CLEARWATER — Robert Utley sat on the front porch with his mother one last time. They stared out at a row of decaying trailers, all silent as tombstones.

His mother broke the quiet with promises. Cyntthia Sterba, 48, vowed to keep his bedroom the same, to purchase him some phone cards, to write often.

"Can I give you a hug tomorrow?" she asked. Her eyes were red and swollen from crying.

"I don't see why you couldn't," he responded, matter of fact.

4. Male victims confront sexual assault in military:

Richard Bell Jr. was hanging up his polo shirts in his metal locker, when his new roommate walked in.

The two men regarded each other warily.

5. Gretchen Molannen's legacy: suffering, suicide and a journalist's responsibility:

I had floated for hours in a warm mineral spring in Florida, interviewing Eastern Europeans in Speedos and floppy hats. For a reporter, it was an idyllic kind of day.

Back at the office late in the afternoon, gritty and sun-bleached, I sat down to look through email. I had just published an article about a Spring Hill woman named Gretchen Molannen. For 16 years, she had lived with an embarrassing genital arousal disorder that had left her destitute and in pain.

An email from her boyfriend caught my attention.

[Last modified: Thursday, April 3, 2014 1:16pm]


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