Features

  1. 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.
  2. 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 . . . ”
  3. 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.

  4. 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
  5. 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.
  6. 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
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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]
  11. 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.

  12. 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]
  13. 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]
  14. 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
  15. A Republican fix on climate

    Perspective

    There is a time for weighing evidence and a time for acting. And if there's one thing I've learned throughout my work in finance, government and conservation, it is to act before problems become too big to manage.

    The West Antarctic ice sheet is slowly collapsing. We must craft national policy to use market forces — a carbon tax — to provide incentives for technological advances to address climate change.
  16. Chelsea Baker's path to mound at Trop as unpredictable as her signature pitch

    Human Interest

    Chelsea Baker was nervous.

    So much could go wrong. She could hit Evan Longoria's sweet face with a pitch. She could end David Price's elbow. She could come out and throw like 50 Cent.

    Chelsea Baker, 17, throws batting practice for the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Monday. Baker, who plays varsity baseball at Durant High in Plant City, got a good start: Her Little League coach was famed MLB knuckleballer Joe Niekro.
  17. Florida is epicenter of fight against Big Tobacco

    Civil

    Two decades ago, a husband-wife team of Miami lawyers took a David and Goliath swipe at Big Tobacco, filing a class-action suit on behalf of 500,000 Floridians.

    Laura Zeller, a longtime smoker, died in 2012 at age 71 before she could get her day in court. Daughter Melissa Nelson, second from left, says her mother had lost her mobile home and hoped a verdict would let her buy another, but health problems took their toll. Also shown are granddaughter Emily Nelson, left, granddaughter Breanna Shaw and son Tracy Zeller.
  18. Dani, then 12, has a brief interaction with friends Emily Burkett, 12, Bailey Brown, 16, and Emily's dad David Burkett (left to right) while running into one another at the Wilson County Fair in this 2011 photograph. [MELISSA LYTTLE |  TIMES]
  19. Times wins 9 awards in Society for Features Journalism contest

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times won a top award and nine overall this year from the Society for Features Journalism.

    John Woodrow Cox earned first place in Short Feature.
  20. 'Microplastics' imperil marine life in Tampa Bay, worldwide

    Water

    Years of hard work and millions of dollars went into cleaning up the nutrient pollution that was ruining Tampa Bay with fish kills and algae blooms. Now healthy sea grass beds are spreading across the bay bottom once more, and fish and manatees are swimming through water that has become clearer.

    An Eckerd College crew of, from left, Will Demerest, Kristina Petraites, Emily Smith, professor David Hastings and Will Sladky, takes samples of bay water in March to test for microplastics.