Monday, December 11, 2017
News Roundup

Pasco family pays final tribute to father by publishing his children's book

Calvin Johnson's heart was big as a mountain when it came to kids and family.

I met Cal and his wife, Cindy, in the mid '90s when I was a teacher at Seven Springs Elementary. Cindy, who has nurse's training, worked then as a paraprofessional in a preschool classroom with special-needs children. Their daughter Brina was in my third-grade class, and Dara became my student a few years later.

Cal was a Coke service technician who took care of restaurants, schools or any place with a Coke account. I found it pleasantly curious how often his work route brought him to Seven Springs precisely at the time we had recess following lunch.

Cal would hop out of his van, dash to the playground and join in, usually tossing a football with the boys. He'd play as hard as the kids and then, sweaty and hot, give Brina a hug. And with a big smile and wave to all of us, he'd jump in his van and was back on the job.

As I got to know Cal I realized his route did not always bring him to Seven Springs. He planned it that way.

"He really was just a giant kid himself," Brina said with a laugh, recalling how evenings he'd arrive home and hop out of his van to play, rather than heading indoors.

Cal's enthusiasm for life was infectious and included a love for animals. He often purchased leftover bread to toss to the birds behind their house.

He was a reader, not so much of books, but absorbing daily newspapers. He'd often write a well-put-together letter to the editor, many of which ran in the Times. He had ideas and a good way to express them.

"He loved reading and writing," said Cindy, caressing the front of a children's book, Buzzy the Vegetarian Vulture.

Cal wrote it. In his head. During his Coke runs. He grabbed minutes here and there and blocked it out on sheets of papers, directions for sketches and colors written in margins.

He raced in one day after work and urged Cindy to hear the story. She was impressed.

It was about a vulture who, unlike meat-eating vultures, preferred fruits and vegetables. Through Buzzy, Cal showed that it's okay to be different, passing on a message of believing in one's self.

But the book idea got shelved when cancer struck. He fought hard and maintained a strong outlook, but the disease won in November 2011 with some of Cal's dreams complete and some unfinished.

He'd seen Brina and Dara mature into successful young women, Brina now a teacher at Trinity Oaks Elementary and Dara working in the travel industry.

Cal, 57, wanted to be an organ donor, but that didn't play out due to chemo.

Then there was the book, written but never published.

Months after he died, Cindy pushed ahead to get Cal's book in print. She could make that dream come true, and help him forever reach kids.

"We wanted Cal's legacy to live on," said Cindy, recalling how he encouraged others to lead, not just follow.

With the help of Holly Burr, former Pasco County educator, Cindy found Peppertree publishing company in Sarasota. Seven Springs art teacher Kathleen Ciresi-Abremski had the right touch for illustrations Cal had planned. His scribbled directions would be followed, especially the use of purple and yellow, Cal's favorite colors.

The book was published last September.

I recently opened a copy and found Cal Johnson on every page. I saw his dark eyes sparkling with good humor and his beaming smile.

The story, written in simple rhyming sentences, offers a solid message to adults and children. On the closing page, the little vulture with a purple head determines that it's good to just be yourself. That was Cal.

As a teacher I rarely saw any father more dedicated to his wife and children than Cal Johnson. In the end, his family's dedication was returned to him with the publication of his book.

Comments
Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

Lions-Buccaneers Turning Point, Week 14: A coach's future hangs in the balance

TAMPA — The season started in August with “Hard Knocks,” packed bleachers at training camp and cheers for coach Dirk Koetter.It ended Sunday with a 24-21 loss to the Lions, a lot of empty seats and chants of “We want Gruden ba...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

Tree trimmer shocked by power line in Clearwater, authorities say

CLEARWATER — A 38-year-old tree trimmer is in critical condition after he was shocked by a power line Monday, according to Clearwater Fire & Rescue.Ernest Harlen, of Largo, was on a ladder cutting trees with a pole saw when he was shocked just before...
Updated: 20 minutes ago
Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

Could report of rift relate to Jameis Winston’s damaged brand?

TAMPA — What we have at One Buc Place is a game of Clue. The whodunit in this case is the person(s) who put out the information that quarterback Jameis Winston’s relationship with coach Dirk Koetter is on cracked ice.Was it Winston in the weight room...
Updated: 22 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Police make arrest in South Tampa home invasion of 77-year-old

Police make arrest in South Tampa home invasion of 77-year-old

TAMPA — Police have arrested a teenager in connection with an armed home invasion around the Hyde Park area.Leo W. Butler, 19, was arrested Friday and faces a charge of robbery of less than $300. He is being held on a $15,000 bond.According to Tampa ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Trump wants to send astronauts back to the moon then on to Mars

Trump wants to send astronauts back to the moon then on to Mars

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump wants to send astronauts back to the moon — and on to Mars. Trump signed a policy directive Monday instructing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to "refocus America’s space program on human explorat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority plays beat the clock on GOP tax bill

TAMPA — With the Republican tax bill poised to eliminate the opportunity, the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority on Monday said it had refinanced a big chunk of its debt to save money in the future.The authority borrowed $152 million from the bo...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

Alabama Senate race, unlikely nail biter, races to finish line

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy Moore raced Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama’s special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Saturday’s sonic booms likely from F-15 fighters, NORAD says

Those sonic booms heard across the state Saturday afternoon were likely from two F-15 fighter jets protecting President Donald Trump during his visit to Florida, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command.The jets, which belong to the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
JW Marriott Clearwater Beach project still on target despite some bumps

JW Marriott Clearwater Beach project still on target despite some bumps

CLEARWATER BEACH — While Tampa is excited about its first JW Marriott hotel, plans are moving ahead for a $130 million JW Marriott property on Clearwater Beach, despite some hiccups. "We’ve done really well in our opinion," Uday Lele, developer of t...
Updated: 2 hours ago