Features

  1. Hemp helps build a house in Tarpon Springs, likely first in Florida

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS — Bob Clayton leaned over the gleaming, industrial-grade oven, his crystal blue eyes focused as he slathered crab spread on golden-brown pieces of bread.

    Bob Clayton crafted a 1,640-square-foot house of hempcrete — the hemp plant’s woody core and a lime-based binder.
  2. In proud Hendry, Florida's hardest-hit county searches for economic boost

    Agriculture

    CLEWISTON

    Beyond the relentless fields of sugar cane stalks, past the sign heralding Clewiston as "America's Sweetest City," just south of a cluster of aged mobile homes and modest ranch-style houses sits the weather-worn Lighthouse Apostolic Church.

    Sugar cane lines a drainage ditch as a storm rolls in Wednesday over Clewiston in Hendry County. The economic well-being of Hendry has been tied to agriculture for nearly a century. With the county’s economy tanking, alternatives are being sought.
  3. Perspective: World War I's legacy as the Great War (w/video)

    Perspective

    In January 1917, amid the horrors of trench warfare, a British officer penned a prosaic sentence, "Two oranges this morning were hard as cricket balls."

    American troops get ready in the trenches in France. In 1917, the United States came late to the war, and its troops didn’t see action right away, but its entry changed the balance of power.
  4. Who is Charlie Crist? The answer is complicated

    State Roundup

    Charlie Crist stood on one side of the pool, and almost all of the rest of the people stood on the other, the glittery Florida portrait between them. The …

    Gov. Charlie Crist sits in his private den at the governor’s mansion on April 29, 2010, before catching a flight to Tampa Bay to announce his decision to run for U.S. Senate as an independent. Crist, who at one point had a huge lead in the Republican primary for the seat, was defeated by Marco Rubio. Crist would go on to join the Democratic Party in 2012.
  5. FBI closes book on Claude Neal's lynching without naming killers

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA

    Claude Neal couldn't read or write. He was short and scrawny, and scraped by, picking peas and cotton, mending fences and tending hogs, trying to provide for a wife and 3-year-old daughter against the tides of the Great Depression.

    At a family reunion in July in Marianna, E’Laycia Williams, 10, left, and Ja’Niya Hayes, 11, tie balloons to the wheelchair of Allie Mae Neal. She was 3 when her father, Claude Neal, was lynched in Marianna in 1934.
  6. Bill Young's widow struggles to find peace and meaning in life without congressman (w/ video)

    Politics

    The congressman's widow couldn't stop crying.

    Beverly Young, widow of U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, wraps her husband’s bathrobe around a pillow so she can still smell him when she sleeps. Below, the Youngs are pictured in 2009 while in Venice, Italy.
  7. Fans of Chalet Suzanne savor iconic restaurant, but can't save it

    Human Interest

    LAKE WALES

    Nowadays, the weathered roadside sign seems to beg for attention, but narrow your eyes and you can see better days. Better days, when Duncan Hines found Chalet Suzanne in the Florida hills and told all his friends. When Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore dropped by, when Robert Redford and Johnny Carson and …

    With the look of a castle from a childhood fairy tale, Chalet Suzanne has hosted celebrities such as Burt Reynolds and Dinah Shore.
  8. The second coming of Billy the Kid (w/ video)

    Human Interest

    TARPON SPRINGS —

    Guy on the phone says to "Google 'Billy the Kid' Emerson. He's old now, but he was really famous once. He lives here." // So I Google. An African-American piano player born in Tarpon Springs, Emerson ended up at Sun Records in Memphis. Elvis recorded one of his songs. // Talk to Billy the …

    Billy Emerson holds a picture of himself he said was made on the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, when he was 15.
  9. Revive, don't raze, Tampa's Riverfront Park

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — This past Christmas we bought for my middle child something called a Spooner Board, which is marketed as a toy for gifted children but is really just a sort of a curved plastic skateboard without wheels. She dragged it to the front yard and tried to scoot around, and was bored in about two …

     Handoutphoto
  10. Tumbleweaves: Stray hair woven into fabric of city life

    Human Interest

    Mark Spence was watching the storm approach when he saw it crawling along 57th Street S.

    Instagram
  11. The ride never ends, it just gets wet for a bit

    Human Interest

    A reporter driving home from work in a thunderstorm passes four motorcyclists huddled under a highway overpass. She wonders what they're doing out in this weather, so she pulls over. The short answer? They're debating — risk, freedom and the best place for dinner. The usual.

  12. Dispatches from Next Door: Burn survivor's words are the balm that soothe

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — “Joe Versaggi," he said, lightly bumping fists with the young man in the hospital bed. "Burn survivor."

    Joe Versaggi, 71, has always loved to fly. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and flew on hundreds of death-defying missions that he survived. But eight years ago, the Cessna a friend was flying crashed and left Joe with burns covering 35 percent of his body. He now volunteers at Tampa General Hospital, where he splits his time between driving the courtesy shuttle and talking to the survivors in the burn unit.
  13. For coffee shop owner, every day is a clean start (w/ video)

    Human Interest

    GULFPORT — At 5:30 a.m. Teddy Kehoe opens the door to his dark shop, and the smell of bleach from last night's scrubbing nudges him awake. He pulls the chain on a coffee-cup sign in the window. Steam blinks from the cup.

    Teddy Kehoe, 52, owner of the Gulfport Grind, opened the coffee shop after three years of fruitlessly trying to find a job.
  14. St. Petersburg pair on a mission to provide homes for veterans

    Human Interest

    Retired Army Lt. Col. Carol Barkalow understands her tenants.

    Sheila Mutascio, left, and Carol Barkalow work to change the battery in a smoke detector in one of the eight homes they’ve rehabbed for veterans in St. Petersburg. The pair behind Heaven on Earth for Veterans have rented to 49 people so far.
  15. A bike tour of all 50 states? Retired teacher, 71, did just that

    Human Interest

    Dressed in a blue Bike Around Kansas souvenir T-shirt and capri pants, Dianne Franz, 71, moves her 5-foot-9 frame gingerly about her tidy Palm Harbor condo.

    Dianne Franz, 71, standing in front of a wall map on which she traced the routes of all her bike tours, holds a keepsake map laden with charms and pictures that her best cycling and Scrabble-playing (note the letter tiles) buddy, Linda Tilley, made for her. Franz biked her 50th state, Kansas, in June.
  16. Sarasota artist talks about dad, works in PBS documentary

    Life Times

    “Art is long and life is short."

    That's how Gale Fulton Ross, 68, an acclaimed African-American artist in Sarasota, begins Baby Artist, a PBS documentary about her life. Baby Artist is the nickname her father, Herman Fulton Jr., who was an artist and designer himself, gave her when she was growing …

    Many Voices, One Story, a sculpture designed by Gale Fulton Ross of Sarasota, will be erected in Opa-locka this year. The sculpture is “the head of a strong, nurturing woman who could represent Mother . . . ”
  17. Keys clerk's office: We're ready for same-sex marriages

    State Roundup

    KEY WEST — In the hours after a Keys judge threw out Florida's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, gay couples from all around the state inundated the Monroe County Clerk's office with calls about when they could tie the knot — and some even began making plans to fly down for a wedding.

  18. Meet three outside money groups at work in Florida

    State Roundup

    American Sunrise

    One of the most talked about and controversial ads in Florida in recent years came from a little-known super PAC innocuously named American Sunrise.

    American Sunrise ad
  19. Sheriff investigates claims of 'torture,' killings at Okeechobee reform school

    Human Interest

    OKEECHOBEE — The sheriff's deputies saw blood on the back of Joseph Johnson's shirt. He was 12, in 1959, walking down a Sarasota street after another beating from his stepmother.

    The former Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee, which opened in 1959, is now a privately run halfway house and development center for boys and young men.
  20. For ex-con, there's no glamor in straight life, but it still beats prison

    Human Interest

    A knock on the motel door at 6:30 a.m. wakes Tony Ferrentino. He lifts his 315-pound body a few steps to the door, where a Louisville Slugger leans by the window. His arms are tattooed from wrist to shoulder with dapper mobsters and sprawling, cat-eyed women flashing those parts typically left to the imagination. A …

    Tony Ferrentino in his room in the Bayway Inn, a motel owned by his cousin. Ferrentino is a lifelong criminal, who after spending 28 years of his life behind bars, is trying to remain straight. “Inside I got two dogs fighting all the time.” CHERIE DIEZ    |   Times