07/31/14 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — The relics on the walls of Mastry's Bar — including two mounted tarpon, a barracuda head and photos of Babe Ruth — have gotten their last translucent amber coating of nicotine.
After nearly 80 years, the iconic downtown bar, thought to be the city's oldest, has gone smoke free.
The move comes 11 years after the state banned smoking in enclosed workplaces. Since then, even bars that didn't serve food and were exempted have been telling customers to take it outside....
TAMPA — Rose Diaz walked off the grounds of Sacred Heart Academy at 17, tossing off an unprintable phrase to the nun who watched her leave.
Just like that, she was done with school for good.
Ms. Diaz would return to school, graduating as salutatorian from an adult education program. She would go on to serve for more than 40 years in Hillsborough County schools, during which time she left a sizable imprint on adult education and girls athletics. An award named after her, given each year to an outstanding female volleyball player, reflects part of that legacy....
DUNEDIN — For eight years, Dunedin Doggie Rescue has approached animal shelters as far away as Highlands County, trying to save dogs from euthanasia.
Most are mixed breeds that have missed some threshold of desirability that might have rendered them adoptable by county standards. They might be too old, too shy or too grumpy to make the cut. Even being born the wrong color (Google "black coat syndrome") can land a dog on death row....
ST. PETERSBURG — From 1980 until just a few years ago, Vera Noble motivated her fellow church members by example. She set up the Christian education program at First Baptist Institutional and its vacation Bible school, trained teachers and served as Florida moderator of the American Baptist Churches of the South.
She had been a close friend of civil rights activist Dorothy Height, who was a 40-year president of the National Council of Negro Women and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Mrs. Noble believed in her mission, which centered on Christian education for young people, and she inspired belief in others....
TAMPA — At its peak, his family's clothing store brought generations of well-groomed customers to more than half a dozen locations throughout the state, starting with a landmark location on Franklin Street.
Fred Wolf, whose grandfather and great-uncle founded Wolf Brothers in 1898, ran the men's clothing store through the 1950s until its closing in 1996. While styles changed, the dress and demeanor of the quiet businessman who led Wolf Brothers did not. ...
PINELLAS PARK — All Aaron Clore had in mind Monday coming out of a Target store was getting into his truck and turning on the air conditioning. Before he knew it, the EMT and firefighter was involved in the arrest of a mother who had left her infant daughter alone in her car.
Clore, 34, of Titusville, said he was in town because his 7-year-old son had recently undergone a bone marrow transplant at All Children's Hospital. Just before 5 p.m. Clore, his wife and the boy had just left the Target at 7150 U.S. 19 N when his wife, Monica, called him over to a car idling in the parking lot....
CLEARWATER — Janet Tombow said she grew up subjected to frequent and severe beatings from her stepmother.
When the girl threatened to tell her birth mother, the woman replied: "Your mother didn't want you or love you."
Decades would pass before Ms. Tombow learned that her birth mother had spent years trying to contact her. Ms. Tombow described the abuse and her recovery in her autobiography, Stolen But Not Lost....
GULFPORT — The celebrants trekked in a half-hour before sunset. Some carried coolers; a few had bug spray.
They entered a deep back yard strewn with kitsch and clutter, found art and discarded objects that might be made into art, strings of colored lights between trees and hints of 1970s nostalgia.
Regulars call the Blueberry Patch "Florida's oldest surviving artists retreat." The sight can overwhelm new visitors, who describe it in the group's literature as "Alice in Wonderland meets Tim Leary," or "like being inside of a Christmas tree looking out."...
ST. PETERSBURG — Arque Dickerson enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942. A year later he officially joined the ranks of the Tuskegee Airmen.
He considered it one of the proudest moments of his life.
The Airmen included more than 16,000 men and women whose efforts supported nearly 1,000 African-American fighter pilots, together making up the "Tuskegee Experience." Mr. Dickerson tried his hand at flying and was rated a good fighter pilot. Though he never saw combat, he went on to train other military pilots....
ST. PETERSBURG — Between classes, this was a common sight: a woman just over 5 feet tall, wearing top-of-the-line suits and matching jewelry, running down the halls of St. Petersburg High in expensive heels.
Linda McPheron, the school's assistant principal and coordinator of its International Baccalaureate program, needed to get out in front of something, fix some problem. Dr. McPheron was good at this, tightening and boosting Florida's first IB program in a dozen years....
ST. PETERSBURG — In winning two elections to the City Council and her public life before and after, Martha Maddux never put in a lackluster performance.
Mrs. Maddux, a teacher with an extensive record of civic involvement before joining the council in 1983, had always been known for a feisty yet compassionate demeanor, the ability to take nuanced positions and her command of the facts....
07/01/14 Human Interest
A federal report released Tuesday says Florida became the first state to make a significant dent in prescription drug overdose deaths when it cracked down on pill mills and shady doctors four years ago.
A report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a 23 percent reduction in prescription drug deaths in Florida from 2010 to 2012.
In the years prior, Florida was considered the nation's medicine cabinet because pill mills ran rampant and people from out of state drove here to load up their cars with pills. In addition, people were fatally overdosing at an alarming rate — at one point at least seven people a day were dying....
PALM HARBOR — A couple of months ago, Jan Press was sprinting after a Frisbee in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park. He didn't see the 4-year-old child blithely step in front of him until it was almost too late.
A lawyer with a solo practice, Mr. Press went after everything the way he went after that Frisbee. All out, as if the stakes were life or death, because for some of his clients they were....
In mid August 2004, Hurricane Charley was biting into the homes of Charlotte County like a giant can opener, ripping open everything it touched with winds of 150 mph.
Janet Weed was a 78-year-old widow living in Port Charlotte. During the last phone call to get through, she calmly told a family member, "I'm stepping into the hall closet because the roof's coming off the house."
Not much could shake Mrs. Weed, her family said, if only because she had already endured so much....
ST. PETERSBURG — Pat Seidenspinner made sailing look easy, if only because she had worked so hard at it for so long.
We're not talking about taking a sloop out for a jog around Tampa Bay. For more than two decades, Mrs. Seidenspinner organized regattas on all levels of complexity, all the way to the Olympics. In 2000, her first year as commodore of the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, she brought the best female sailors in the world to Tampa Bay....