12/10/13 Human Interest
George Magrill broke the news to his employees on Tuesday. He's retiring after 37 years running one of the state's premier nonprofit agencies dedicated to saving children and fixing families.
Thirty-seven years! It's a remarkable record of endurance in a job where "you are on the precipice of disaster every moment," offered one of his board members, Ray Gadd, assistant superintendent of Pasco schools....
12/06/13 Human Interest
Brian Moyer isn't much on pomp. So when he stood before county commissioners the other day and listened to them gush about his career, he was a bit uncomfortable.
He's a modest man and figured to turn in his gear and just walk away after three decades with the Pasco Sheriff's Office. But once the word got around, it was clear his many admirers would not let that happen.
Moyer is leaving as a captain in charge of the deputies who patrol the west side. He's had so many big jobs, including five years supervising detectives working major crimes. But what makes him special, and what made the commissioners present a formal resolution in his honor, is his work with children....
11/27/13 Human Interest
TARPON SPRINGS — Eileen Galbraith left the Pinellas County Jail on Sept. 6 after serving three months for taking a swing at a cop. She said she didn't remember the incident and attributed it to an epileptic seizure.
Tarpon Springs officers, naturally, didn't believe her. They had hauled in the homeless woman known as "Blondie'' a dozen times since 2009, mainly for trespassing or fighting or some other alcohol-fueled dispute. ...
St. Anthony Catholic School dates to 1883, four years before the state created Pasco County. Its history, which begins in a widow's home with 14 children, documents generations of academic success, but also a religion's struggle that seems so unlikely today.
The past is never forgotten in this 1.2-square-mile town where historical markers pay tribute to former Arizona Supreme Court Judge Edmund Dunne, who founded the San Antonio Catholic Colony in 1881. The three-story red-brick schoolhouse in the town's square has stood since 1922, one of Pasco County's few icons....
11/15/13 Human Interest
NEW PORT RICHEY — Halloween at the Azzue house had always been special. Every year, the close-knit family gathered a few days early to carve pumpkins and place them on steps leading to the front door. Nick, the youngest and most artistic, took charge of designs.
He loved trick-or-treating, but this year he turned 14 and figured he might be a bit old. He had a few other priorities on his mind, like the homecoming dance coming up on Saturday. He had just picked out a new suit. He had a date....
11/12/13 Human Interest
The Jenkins girls didn't need to know what made their elderly neighbor so extraordinary. They would learn that in time. For now it was more than enough just to feel the love.
Evalyn Gullstrand celebrated their births and early milestones, the first steps, first birthdays. As soon as they could talk, Tori and Olivia called her "Gully,'' which suited her fine.
She especially enjoyed Halloween when the girls' parents, Debby and Rich Jenkins, brought them by to show off their costumes. Gully clapped and cheered and hugged....
11/08/13 Human Interest
Eight years ago, several members of a Methodist congregation in northern Hillsborough County split off to form the nondenominational Keystone Community Church. They had more heart than money but found a meeting place at a community center and later a middle school.
In 2009, they finally found a place to call home, a large building in the heart of a community reeling from economic collapse. By coincidence, a bank foreclosure created a rental opportunity, and the Keystone folks didn't waste it....
11/01/13 Human Interest
The Rev. Philip Williams turned onto a narrow dirt trail in Pasco's poorest community, searching for his new assignment. He passed a few tiny houses and came to another unpaved road. The dust settled and he got out of his car.
He stared at the 1940s church with its rusted tin roof and peeling paint. He knew the congregation had dwindled to only five brave souls. When he walked inside, he winced at the odor of worn-out carpet. He ran his hands across rotting pews. Two noisy window air-conditioners rattled away but failed to cool most of the 1,600 square feet of space. ...
Brooksville lawyer Jimmy Brown picked up the paper one day last week and the main story rekindled a nightmare, the cold-blooded murders of Karol Hurst and Hernando County sheriff's Deputy Lonnie Coburn. He thought of their families and the sadness they must feel every time the killer's face shows up, every time attorneys think of another tactic to save him.
Thirty-five years after the crimes, Florida is still trying to kill Freddie Lee Hall, now 68. Thirty-five years. Germany rebuilt its cities in less time after World War II....
10/25/13 Human Interest
Two days before he turned 100, Dominic "Mickey" DeMariano loaded his golf clubs in the back of his 2009 Toyota Sienna and drove 5 miles to the Links Golf Club in Hudson. He greeted some of his regular playing partners, "kids" he called them, "only in their 70s."
He set down a large bucket of balls on the practice tee, stretched a bit and took out a driver. "Keep your head down, swing easy," he coached before rocketing a shot more than 200 yards. And lest you think that was a fluke, he did it again. And again. He grabbed a 7-iron and without much effort, sent shot after shot directly at a flag about 140 yards away....
10/18/13 Human Interest
The front page of the Sept. 17, 1981, Pasco Times is protected under glass in Craig McCart's cramped office. His walls are covered with plaques honoring a lifetime of community service, so he keeps the edition atop a shelf and only occasionally pulls it down to reflect on a particularly meaningful day.
The main story and pictures recorded the relocation of a white two-story house, an effort that shut down traffic and brought out an army of gawkers amazed at the engineering feat but clueless about the historical significance....
10/04/13 Human Interest
Budget cuts cost John Balogh his job at Chester Taylor Elementary in Zephyrhills. The school had two guidance counselors and one had to go.
He didn't panic. An ordained minister, he trusted "God's plan.'' He found a similar position at one of the poorest schools in Pasco, Rodney B. Cox Elementary on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Dade City. Ninety-eight percent of its students qualify for free lunch....
NEW PORT RICHEY — In all their 63 years together, Johnnie Myers never allowed his wife Sallie to share his private horror.
She didn't press him. He had witnessed terrible things during the war, and if he didn't want to talk about it, that was okay. They shared everything else, the birth of two daughters, a deep religious faith, a successful business.
It wasn't until much later in life, after their daughters had grown and pressed their dad for details, that he opened up a bit. He had lied about his age to join the Army at 17. He had survived 52 missions as a B-17 tail gunner, including the final one when his plane was shot down over Germany and he spent two months in hospitals....
10/01/13 Human Interest
Steve Wrubel's name made newspapers around the world, but he never seemed much impressed. "It just means we're old,'' he said when he and Vickie briefly hit the No. 1 spot on informal lists keeping track of couples married longest.
They got hitched on Sept. 28, 1929 in Ubly, Mich. and moved to Holiday in 1978 after Steve retired from General Motors. They were especially well known at the local Polish-American Club, but achieved worldwide recognition on their anniversary in 2012 when they topped the list with 83 years. Seven months later, on April 8, Vickie died in a nursing home at 102....
09/27/13 Human Interest
The Lighthouse for the Visually Impaired and Blind turned 30 this year, setting off a series of celebrations and recognition of how far it has come since the days when a hard summer rain would flood its tiny building.
Volunteers often became the "mop brigade,'' but this still beat the alternative — driving to Tampa or St. Petersburg for service.
Three decades later, the place that began with a $500 donation in 1983 now has a $1.2 million budget and modern facilities in Pasco and Hernando counties. It is thriving and providing independent living skills for people, babies to seniors. And it is entering an exciting era focused on providing manufacturing jobs and training....