Features

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. For coffee shop owner, every day is a clean start

    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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 . . . ”
  9. 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.

  10. 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
  11. 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.
  12. 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
  13. Big surge in no-party voters could reshape Florida politics

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Claudia Duff started her new life in Florida a few months ago by joining a growing movement of voters who could reshape the state's politics simply by declaring their independence from the two-party system.

    Domenic Marrone, a banker with SunTrust, said he feels more “objective” without partisan ties.
  14. For dancer, fairy tale breakthrough masks pain of coming of age

    Human Interest

    By John Pendygraft

    Times Staff Writer

    TAMPA — The dancer spends every day in pain and doesn't dare show it. She knows not to drop her head or grimace when the instructor is looking. Moping, complaining or being injury-prone gives a dancer a fatal reputation. Six hours of daily training is the norm, and …

    Hannah Stanford, 15, poses at the Straz Center, where she attends the Next Generation Ballet school. Stanford will attend the Royal Ballet School in London this fall.
  15. Orphan Davion Only back in Florida; altercation ends dream of adoption (video)

    Human Interest

    He thought he had finally found a family.

    Davion Only, then 15, follows along with the Sunday sermon at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg in September.
  16. What makes a middle-aged man want to take a one-way trip to Mars?

    Human Interest

    TEMPLE TERRACE

    Hampton Black plans his mission to Mars from a 6- by 10-foot office. Inside this windowless capsule, there's just enough room for a desk, a computer, a water heater and a corkboard, w

    here he tacks important papers.

    Former NASA engineer Hampton Black, right, wants to be one of four people picked by the Mars One project to go to Mars and never return. Girlfriend Ann Marie Slavik, left, would be left behind. While she wants him to pursue his dreams, she's saddened knowing it would mean the end of their relationship. [MELISSA LYTTLE   |   Times]
  17. A history of a war is a history of a man

    Human Interest

    In 1943, the Army tried to turn an American lit expert into a mechanic. It took Bill Sutton's superiors most of the next two years to figure out he was no mechanic. In early 1945, the Army got smart and sent the bespectacled 29-year-old Ph.D. to France to be a military historian.

  18. Crowd of hundreds greets Tampa arrival of tall ship 'Gloria'

    Tourism

    TAMPA — When Gloria first came into sight Monday in Hillsborough Bay, a large crowd rushed to the dock to welcome the three-mast tall ship, eagerly waving Colombian flags and cheering in celebration.

    The ARC Gloria, official flagship of the Colombian navy, docks at the Tampa Convention Center on Monday. [SKIP O'ROURKE  |   Times]
  19. Tax records suggest Crist, Scott lag in charitable giving

    Gubernatorial

    TALLAHASSEE — While Gov. Rick Scott and his Democratic rival Charlie Crist have waged a bitter public relations battle over the release of their tax returns, both sides have been mum about one aspect of the documents:

    Both Charlie Crist, left, and Gov. Rick Scott, right, are philanthropic laggards. [SCOTT KEELER | Times, left; AP photo, right]
  20. St. Augustine haunted by ghosts of civil rights turmoil 50 years ago

    Perspective

    No city in Florida embraces its past with as much ardor as St. Augustine. As the oldest continuously occupied city in the United States, history is its main industry. Hordes of tourists and busloads of schoolkids troop through its streets to watch the (pretend) guards patrolling Fort Matanzas, to fire the (fake) cannon …

     After The Press Conference: King Encourages Demonstrators.  Segregation: St. Augustine