… former Judge Monica Sierra? A baby is on the way.
TAMPA — Former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Monica Sierra happily follows the path the Lord puts in front of her. But her life sure has taken some surprising turns since she resigned from the bench to minister to Palestinian refugees.
A March 21 wedding at the Renaissance Vinoy Resort was one unexpected event. Marriage was never near the top of her goals, she told City Times back in June.
Until Doug Schaefer came along.
The Connecticut banker visited the Living Bread International Church ministry in Jerusalem and Hebron in the West Bank, where Sierra was organizing food distributions in refugee camps and handling administrative duties for the mission.
During the short time he was there, just a week in July 2008, Schaefer told her it was God's will for them to marry.
And now, to their delight, the couple will become parents in March.
"Talk about a life turning around,'' said Sierra, 42. "Being a mom is an unexpected and wonderful surprise."
Morning sickness has passed, and she swims every morning. "I feel great even though I've gained 20 pounds," she said.
At one time Hillsborough's youngest elected judge, Sierra quit without completing her first term. A three-month sabbatical to spread the Gospel that began Christmas 2007 was extended indefinitely.
Schaefer, 46, is the father of two sons — ages 11 and 13 — so he is hoping for a girl this time. Sierra said they postponed a summer trip to Israel until after the baby is born.
Meanwhile, Sierra still intends to work in ministry with the nondenominational Living Bread church. She also passed the state Bar exam in Connecticut, where she and Schaefer now live, and in November was sworn in to practice law there.
"I'm trying not to take on too many clients now so I can spend time with the baby."
Amy Scherzer, Times Staff Writer
… Drake Williams? He's itching to get back on the court.
NEW TAMPA — A month after dropping all-but-dead during a Wharton High School basketball practice, junior Drake Williams is back in school and feels great.
"I feel like nothing happened to me," said Drake, 16. "If the doctors weren't keeping me back, I would already be out there."
For now, at least, the doctors aren't quite done with him, so he's cheering on his Wharton teammates from the bench.
Drake, a forward, was running a drill on Nov. 14 when he fell to the court with what his doctor described as "sudden cardiac death."
Drake's doctor says an electrical disturbance triggered by high levels of stress hormones caused Drake's heart to stop pumping in a regular rhythm and start quivering like "a bag of worms."
It was a miracle that Drake survived, said Dr. James Orlowski, chief of pediatrics at University Community Hospital, where he initially was treated. Two factors played a big role in saving his life.
First, Wharton coach Tommy Tonelli and junior Jonathan Torres immediately started chest compressions.
Minutes later, the teen got help from Tampa Fire Rescue paramedic Ryan Bradford and firefighter-paramedic Angelo Santos Martinez, who just happened to be passing by when Drake's teammates flagged them down in the gym parking lot.
Doctors at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital implanted an internal defibrillator in Drake's chest on Nov. 20, and he was discharged Nov. 21.
Drake has had to wear a sling on his left arm, said his mother, Monzita Williams. The sling prevents him from raising his arm over his head and should help doctors ensure the leads connecting the defibrillator to his heart are secure.
She didn't expect Drake to get a chance to work out with his team again until January, at the earliest.
"He's adjusting well," Mrs. Williams said, "but he is getting restless."
Richard Danielson, Times staff writer
… Adrian White? He's waiting for a chance at football.
TAMPA — This past summer, as Adrian White's classmates at Chamberlain High School prepared to go off to college, he went searching for a job.
His dreams of playing college football were put on hold because his grades and test scores were too low to get into the colleges he had dreamed of attending.
Since graduation, Adrian has been working at Mike's Pies bakery near Waters Avenue and Dale Mabry, while plotting his next move.
He has applied to Alabama State and Grambling State and hopes to get an answer soon.
Mike's Pies' owner, Mike Martin, described Adrian as a hard worker and "very quiet person." So quiet, in fact, Martin had no idea that Adrian had dreams of playing college football — until a reporter told him.
Martin, who was a linebacker at Kentucky and a ninth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1978, walked straight over to Adrian and asked him about it.
He discovered that Adrian, a strong safety, played against Martin's boys while they were at Plant High School. One son is now a wide receiver at Michigan State. Another one is a safety at Elon University.
Martin asked Adrian for a highlight video so that he can show it to a nephew who runs a scouting service for schools. Universities pay recruiting services for these highlight tapes in order to find good players.
Adrian, meanwhile, awaits an answer from the colleges where he has applied, and he is enjoying his job. He's picking up skills he hopes will help him if football doesn't work out.
"One day, I may want to own a restaurant," he said. "I think (my job) will give me experience I can use later on in life."
Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times staff writer
… Reginene Hall Legette? Most charges dropped.
WESTCHASE — Reginene Hall Legette, the wife of former Tampa Bay Buccaneer cornerback Tyrone Legette, faced seven charges last winter in connection with a lunchtime brawl at Westchase Elementary School.
Legette, 44, was accused of punching parent Mickey Carney several times on the side of her face. She was arrested and, at the time, deputies said she was intoxicated. A cold bottle of wine was found in her purse, according to authorities. She was charged with trespassing on school grounds, disorderly intoxication, disrupting an assembly, battery by striking or touching, two counts of battery on a law enforcement officer and obstructing or opposing an officer.
But in June, Circuit Judge Robert A. Foster dropped all charges against Legette except one charge of battery, which required her to attend an intervention program. Legette completed that program on Nov. 13, said Ralph Fernandez, Legette's lawyer.
"There were a lot of things that weren't quite as they seemed initially," Fernandez said. "The state did the right thing after reviewing the evidence."
Carney, 42, has since filed a civil case against Legette seeking damages in excess of $15,000. Carney did not return phone calls.
Nicole Hutcheson, Times staff writer
… Fred and Ethel? Bonnie and Clyde have moved in.
NEW TAMPA — Fred and Ethel were a pair of sandhill cranes who roamed the property at Family of Christ Lutheran Church and School for more than six years.
They mingled with parishioners and schoolchildren and paraded their young and protected their nests, drawing crowds wherever they went.
Students studied their nesting habits and took pictures, and they documented their activities in journals.
Until one day when another sandhill crane couple came and chased them away.
The newcomers, who were meaner and more aloof, claimed the 31-acre property as their own.
They have spent the past year on church grounds, but they don't peck at their reflection in cars or meander through the children's garden.
When they had a baby last spring, they did not show their baby off like Fred and Ethel did.
They have peered inside classroom windows, but it has been rare and brief.
Pastor Dave Haara said church members still reminisce about Fred and Ethel.
They wonder where the couple ended up.
But at the same time, they understand it's all a part of nature. So they've given the new cranes names.
Bonnie and Clyde.
Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times staff writer
… Town & Country's sign? A new one is now up.
TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Carlton Lewis noticed the "Welcome to Town & Country" sign was missing in late October. It was jolting because Lewis, a longtime member of the Town & Country Alliance, a civic association in the area, had bought the sign. For a decade it had stood just south of the intersection of Sheldon Road and Linebaugh Avenue.
The county launched an investigation into the missing sign after Lewis complained. After a little digging, officials discovered that a construction crew doing work in the area had taken the sign down by mistake. Rippa & Associates, the contracting company, replaced the sign a few weeks ago.
It is white with green lettering that reads "Welcome to Town & Country, Everything a Great Community Should Be!"
Nicole Hutcheson, Times staff writer
… 30 Hour Famine? Kids are still reaching out.
TOWN 'N COUNTRY — For 30 hours in February, local teens tried life like it might be if they lived in poverty: no food, no shelter, no comforts.
The event, called 30 Hour Famine, was part of an annual fundraiser hosted by the youth group at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.
About 60 middle and high school students slept outside, in the cold, in cardboard boxes. They learned about the causes and effects of poverty in Third World countries. They participated in a project to benefit local homeless people.
The experience has since stuck with them, changing how they act when they see people in need, youth pastor Kevin Grills said.
"We put a day's worth of nonperishable food in grocery bags," he said. "Something that could be kept in the back seat of your car."
The youth group put notes in the bags, too: God loves you, and we do, too. Church members kept the bags in their cars and gave them away on the road when they came across homeless people this year.
"A lot of the kids have kept that up, and not only has it been a youth thing, but a family thing," Grills said. "You give (a homeless person) something tangible, rather than having that guilty feeling and trying to avoid eye contact."
Arleen Spenceley, Times staff writer
… Circuit City and Circle K? Still waiting for action.
CITRUS PARK — In July, negotiations were under way between the leasing agent for the former Circuit City in Citrus Park and a prospective tenant, according to Jeremy Kral, a retail specialist with Colliers Arnold, the company leasing the space. Kral gave very few details about the prospective tenant for the space except to say it was not retail.
Also, a 10,000- to 12,000-square-foot strip mall, including a restaurant chain and mattress company, were planned for the Circle K gas station site, which is diagonal to the former Circuit City on Gunn Highway.
Both Circuit City and Circle K remain under contract, but there hasn't been much progress at either site. "Unfortunately, nothing has changed," Kral said recently. "We won't know until the first of next year what's going to happen with the property."
Kral said he anticipates both projects to pick up steam next year.
"A year from now some stores will be open, and people will be shopping," he said. "Circuit City is probably a similar time line."
Nicole Hutcheson, Times staff writer