01/20/16 State Roundup
Some of the boys from the reform school use to take lunch down to the graveyard. They'd eat bologna sandwiches and wonder aloud about the boys buried beneath their feet. The dead boys' names were lost to time and neglect and, if you believe the men who made it out of Florida's oldest reform school alive, the callous hearts of guards who took home paychecks signed by the state.
It was always a mystery for Michael Littles, 58, from Tampa, who was sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys outside Marianna the first time when he was 12, in 1969....
12/03/15 Human Interest
Everyone at Manatee Lanes had long since quit what they were doing and gathered behind the boy bowling on Lanes 9 and 10. This was a Saturday morning, Halloween.
The adult men's tournament going on had all but stopped as the bowlers peeled off to cluster behind the kid throwing strikes. Nobody dared to speak as they bore witness to his magic. They didn't want to jinx him. Heaven forbid someone say "Good luck" and ruin this moment, this unbelievable thing they were watching....
ST. PETERSBURG — Chef Tom Pritchard, who lied his way into the food and service industry and rose to become one of the most inventive and influential chefs in Florida, died Wednesday morning at his home in St. Petersburg. He was 74.
He died from complications after a surgery to alleviate the symptoms of Parkinson's disease.
Mr. Pritchard was executive chef for Baystar Restaurant Group, owner of Salt Rock Grill in Indian Shores, Island Way Grill in Clearwater, Rumba Island Bar & Grill in Clearwater and Oldsmar, Marlin Darlin' in Belleair Bluffs and Salt Rock Tavern in Oldsmar. He trained or inspired many of the Tampa Bay area's most recognized chefs. Known for his connections in the industry and his penchant for storytelling, Mr. Pritchard is hailed by many as a legend....
WASHINGTON — The Ruskin mail carrier who landed his lightweight gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in April to protest how money corrupts U.S. politics pleaded guilty to a single felony on Friday.
Doug Hughes, 62, faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 for operating a gyrocopter without a license. While prosecutors have asked for no more than 10 months in prison, Hughes' lawyers will argue that he should get probation....
11/10/15 Human Interest
GAINESVILLE — The old men met after sun up Saturday in the parking lot of an abandoned Mexican restaurant on the south side of town. They shook hands and hugged and climbed aboard a bus, careful not to fall.
Chuck Ruffner, 79, carried the plaque. "Don't drop it," he kept saying as he passed it around.
A police motorcade led the way to campus, past the co-eds in short shorts and the tailgaters playing corn hole and all the University of Florida homecoming hoopla....
We trudged through the dark, me half lit and engorged from neo-Filipino fare, my daughter tugging my hand and looking for familiar landmarks. We walked down dark alleys and through underground tunnels and over elevated walkways until she finally saw something familiar.
"I think we're back where we started," she said.
We'd been walking forever around Makati, the hip business district in Manila, trying to find our hotel. But somehow we had circled back to Your Local, a Brooklyn-style bare-bulb eatery with a secret entrance where we had earlier enjoyed dinner among the hipsters of Manila. Now we were both sweating and her frustration was growing....
TAMPA — Robert Stephens was murdered in 1937 and buried in an unmarked grave on the campus of Florida's oldest state-run reform school, the Florida School for Boys, in the Panhandle town of Marianna. On Tuesday, University of South Florida researchers announced that they have identified his remains using DNA and returned them to the boy's family.
"Sometimes persistence pays off," said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF who is leading a project to identify the human remains excavated from the brutal reformatory campus. Stephens is the sixth boy to be identified. The state believed the cemetery contained 31 burials until USF researchers found 51, most of them buried in the woods surrounding a marked burial ground....
06/12/15 Human Interest
Good quest stories start at the beginning, so let us untangle all the various narratives about the improbable birth of the Tampa Bay Lightning and begin with the bold desire of one man, a man whose life was defined by hockey, a man who got emotional when he talked about hockey, a man who would let go of his wife before he let go of hockey.
Phil Esposito wanted a hockey team.
That's the beginning, a man with a wish. On May 1, 1990, eight months after the NHL announced its intentions to expand from 21 teams to 28 by the year 2000, Esposito told the hockey world he was interested in bringing a team to a place most unlikely: Tampa Bay. And he had a name: the Lightning....
06/03/15 Human Interest
TAMPA — She's not sure where the music inside her came from, but maybe it started in Greenville, S.C., when she was two. She doesn't remember this, but her mother has told her the story. Sonya Bryson was obsessed with dolls, soft fuzzy ones. She sat them in front of her at one end of her crib, and she sang. Her first audience. The songs were unintelligible, but the fans didn't seem to mind....
RUSKIN — Doug Hughes doesn't get out much anymore, not since April 15, a month ago, when he flew his gyrocopter from Gettysburg, Pa., through protected airspace above Washington, D.C., and plopped down on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol.
The temporary punishment for his daring "Freedom Flight," to bring attention to campaign finance reform, has him stuck behind closed doors at his little house on Pleasant View Avenue, shades drawn, often tethered to the charging unit that keeps his GPS ankle monitor alive. He can't run down the street to the Dollar General for a Pepsi. He can't even mow his own lawn....
05/05/15 Human Interest
Here we are again, on the edge of our seats, our flags unfurled, our overpasses adorned with lightning bolts. The hockey team from Tampa Bay is again making a run at greatness, up two games to none against the longest continuously operating professional ice hockey organization in the world.
Game 3 is tonight, and if you hadn't noticed, hockey, more and more, is a thing here in the subtropics....
Flying in from the north over the buildings of Washington, D.C., Doug Hughes could make out a white tower in the distance, the most notable spire on the skyline. When he got close enough to see the Potomac River, he knew what he was looking at: The Washington Monument.
He was freezing, his face and hands going numb. He wore a heavy U.S. Postal Service jacket, but he hadn't expected it to be so cold at 300 feet. He'd been buzzing through the gray sky at 45 mph for more than an hour, having left an airport in Gettysburg, Pa., at noon on Wednesday....
WASHINGTON — He made the front pages of the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today for flying through protected airspace and plopping his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. He captured air time on an alphabet of news channels for an act of civil disobedience to spotlight campaign finance reform.
And when Doug Hughes, a mail carrier from Ruskin, emerged in court after 24 hours in custody, he put speakerphones in his failing ears and faced the judge, hoping for the best....
Doug Hughes, a 61-year-old mailman from Ruskin, told his friends he was going to do it. He was going to fly a gyrocopter through protected airspace and put it down on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, then try to deliver 535 letters of protest to 535 members of Congress.
The stunt seemed so outlandish that not even his closest friend thought he would pull it off.
"My biggest fear was he was going to get killed," said Mike Shanahan, 65, of Apollo Beach, who works with Hughes for the Postal Service....
Editor's note: The location for the public meeting to discuss the outdoor research facility has been changed. It is scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 23, in the cafeteria at Pinecrest Elementary School, at 7950 Lithia-Pinecrest Road in Lithia.
TAMPA — Are you bored by the idea of a traditional after-life burial? Don't want to spend eternity supine on a silk pillow?...