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....
For years, Robert Leon Tankel has been known as one of the most aggressive lawyers representing homeowners associations. Ownership groups had no stronger ally. Those who fell behind on their homeowner's maintenance fees or assessments had no stronger foe.
On Tuesday afternoon, authorities delivered Tankel to a new home, at least for the moment — the Pinellas County Jail.
BACKSTORY: Pinellas lawyer takes foreclosure fight to ethical edge, experts say
CLEARWATER — If you own a television and have called Pinellas County home for at least a year, you have probably seen Len Ciecieznski on the county's public access channel. He was the smooth-voiced narrator hosting shows like Inside Pinellas, which informed viewers on safety, transportation and the environment; deconstructed property taxes and EMS funding; or put out shorter clips on volunteer programs or honors for county workers with a professional's touch....
He approached strangers with right arm outstretched, already making an impression from the good shoes to the pocket handkerchief to the presumptive smile.
"Hi, I'm Gene Slott."
First impressions counted, especially in each of his careers. At various turns, Mr. Slott performed standup comedy, headed a public relations firm, sold insurance and guided businesses through mergers and acquisitions....
06/11/14 Human Interest
LARGO — Sam Rizkallah and his four-footed first mate enjoyed the most active kind of bond. Man and dog were more than companions; they were best friends.
On Tuesday that bond cost Rizkallah, 58, his life.
You can't overstate the joy that the self-employed laundry operator took in piloting his 27-foot boat on the shimmering waters of the Gulf of Mexico on weekends, Oliver, his 4-year-old boxer, sniffing the breeze and the saltwater....
06/06/14 Human Interest
On one side of a budding criminal case stand the alleged victims — more than a dozen federal departments and agencies including the Army, Navy, Air Force, the Department of Homeland Security and NASA.
On the other side stand a Belleair Beach scientist couple accused of bilking more than $10 million from the federal government.
A grand jury indictment unsealed Tuesday accuses Mahmoud "Matt" Aldissi and his wife, Anastassia "Anastasia" Bogomolova, of obtaining government contracts for years based on inflated proposals and billing for nonexistent employees and consultants....
Carol Hajek was a 7-year-old reading the Sunday comics in Honolulu on Dec. 7, 1941, when her father heard an explosion.
Her father, Lt. Cmdr. Allan Muncey, who was in charge of harbor defense at the Pearl Harbor Submarine Base, turned on the radio. Moments later he rushed out of the house.
Though wounded by shrapnel, Allan Muncey was not among the more than 2,400 Americans killed in the attack. He helped capture the commander of a Japanese suicide submarine that had run aground....
06/04/14 The Heater
Don Zimmer had a lot to say during his 66 years in baseball. • Get him started, and it usually didn't take much, and he would talk with passion and vigor, telling stories rich in detail about the life he led: • About being teammates with Jackie Robinson during his 12 years playing in the majors, or managing the Red Sox and Cubs during historic seasons, or having a prime seat on the bench for the Yankees' dynastic run, or getting the chance to come home and work for the Rays. • And then he would stop and smile and deliver his own punch line: • "A pretty good career for a .235 hitter.'' • Indeed it was....