03/14/14 Human Interest
HOLIDAY — Monica Miracle stood with three other women and their families beneath the bright studio lights Friday morning as Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan prepared to announce the $100,000 grand prize winner on their show's "Unstoppable Moms'' contest.
"It was nerve-wracking,'' the 27-year-old Holiday woman said later, "but we were cracking up.''
That's because her 18-month-old son, Jayce, meandered to center stage and grabbed a microphone from Ripa, then Strahan. The studio audience for Live! With Kelly and Michael laughed as the rambunctious redhead strolled alone with a huge smile....
03/13/14 Human Interest
John Dubois' artistic and mechanical genius is best appreciated when you see the "before'' pictures of the junked 1960 Chevrolet El Camino he rescued from the Arizona desert.
It had sat for years beneath a eucalyptus tree outside Phoenix with little chance of ever amounting to much more than salvage parts for some other vehicle. Not that it had many parts left. The hood and tailgate were missing. You could see the ground through what was left of the floorboard....
03/11/14 Human Interest
Two weeks ago, Monica Miracle's world revolved around getting four kids off to school and corralling her rambunctious 18-month-old son, Jayce. She clipped coupons to save money. She worried about the rent and the family sedan nearing 200,000 miles.
Then she heard her name on her favorite morning TV show, Live! With Kelly and Michael. Her phone started ringing. Her friends wondered what she might do with $100,000, and she allowed herself to dream. ...
03/04/14 Human Interest
A "closed'' sign hangs on the front door of John Munty's appliance repair shop in the heart of New Port Richey. Press your nose against the glass and you can see machines he enjoyed giving new life, metal and plastic contraptions that seemed destined for the trash.
Repairing them helped repair Mr. Munty. He endured the loss of two wives and a third woman he loved and each time threw himself into his work, a mechanical talent that never waned even as he inched toward his 100th year. It sure seemed he would make it....
02/28/14 Human Interest
It's one of Jeanne Torrence's favorite pictures of her dad. She can imagine the jubilation he and the other prisoner felt hauling down the Nazi flag that flew over Stalag Luft 1 in Barth, Germany.
The guards had cleared out a day before Russian troops liberated the camp and its 7,000 airmen on April 30, 1945. Somehow, Lt. Charles Suprenant wound up with the flag. He posed with it and other members of the crew of the Lady Barbara, a B-24 bomber he had been piloting when enemy fire blew it from the sky 14 months earlier....
02/25/14 Human Interest
Erma Gibson began her 105th birthday with a hair appointment.
"Not much to work with,'' she said as Jen Uselton ran her fingers through thin gray hair.
"Are you kidding, Miss Erma?'' the beautician responded with appropriate honorific and respect. "You have natural curls.''
The salon is but a short stroll down the hallway at Atria Baypoint Village, an assisted care facility at Bayonet Point where Miss Erma has lived the last 10 years. Employees treat her like royalty and had been looking forward to celebrating her special day — Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014. They serve 220 residents, including a few centenarians. But none come close to Miss Erma in duration, or for that matter, sense of humor....
02/21/14 Human Interest
Jan Glidewell turned 70 on Wednesday. He would have enjoyed all the heartfelt greetings his friends posted on his Facebook page, friends still deeply affected by his spirit and convinced it remains out there — somewhere.
He's been gone since September, a victim of lung and brain cancer, and hardly a week goes by that somebody doesn't ask me about him. He'd laugh about the "legend'' label, but in circles where people appreciate journalistic courage and talent, Jan stood out....
Joe Alpine ran the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce for 15 years. Before retiring last January, he worried somebody might come along and start a competing chamber in the Trinity area, the county's hot corner where new businesses and good restaurants seem to spring up overnight around relatively expensive homes.
Turns out he was right — and in the middle of it all.
Two weeks ago, Alpine volunteered to help one of his old employees, Dan Sullivan, start the Trinity-Odessa Chamber of Commerce, which for now has a cubbyhole office in a business on Little Road that helps people overcome bad backs. They have 25 members and an impressive board of directors led by former County Commissioner Mike Cox, a Wells Fargo financial adviser....
02/14/14 Human Interest
Artists set up their easels where the 1,600-foot boardwalk ends. They look out over the Pithlachascotee's black water and capture reflections of leaning palms mixed among tall pines, soaring osprey and the occasional manatee.
Out here it is so quiet, a respite from the honking, choking traffic on U.S. 19 only a few miles west. It is unspoiled, Old Florida.
For all the natural wonders accessible at the 85-acre James E. Grey Preserve, it has remained largely undiscovered since the city of New Port Richey opened it in 2003. The park is a favorite for paddlers who put in their canoes and kayaks to explore the river as it winds to the Gulf of Mexico. But until a few weeks ago, it was rare to find more than a few cars in the parking lot....
02/11/14 Human Interest
The ceramic angels that once lined the sanctuary's walls now reside in a cardboard box, replaced by modern lights. The smell of fresh paint fills the air. Two new, 70-inch flat-screen TVs provide mourners a high-definition review of the dearly departed.
Out front at the New Port Richey funeral home where Roger Michels and Andy Lundquist have skillfully served more than 9,000 families in 30 years, a shiny new white Cadillac hearse sits in the driveway. Last week, a leasing company delivered an equally impressive vehicle — a 2014 Mercedes van, where 12 family members can sit together on plush leather seats on their way to the cemetery....
02/07/14 Human Interest
HUDSON — For six years, the mobile home sat empty on 5 acres, a buffer between Richard White and a deteriorating neighborhood.
Veryl and Norma Orcutt had lived there in the winters since 1990, escaping the Wisconsin snow. But then old age and Veryl's illness put an end to the lifestyle. That and the drugs.
"We just couldn't stand all the shady characters who started coming around,'' Norma said. "It soured us on Florida.''...
01/28/14 Human Interest
In 79 years, Joan Rees never seriously considered settling down with a husband.
"I've been in like several times,'' she said, "not necessarily in love. This is love.''
She bubbles like a school girl when she talks about it, and so you feel better about her decision. She has spent generations preserving the proud history of the town where she moved as a toddler, a move that saved her life. And now she is leaving it....
01/24/14 Human Interest
Bobby Finotti didn't go to funerals. His old friend Craig McCart, once a professional comedian, made note of that last week as he looked out over the standing room only crowd at Merl Faupel's mortuary. "He wouldn't be here if he didn't have to be,'' McCart said.
And the people laughed.
It figured this service would seem more like a party. Of course there was sadness, but mainly it became a celebration of a life, granted one shortened by too much smoke, too much drink. In his final days, as his longtime pal John Brasher picked his brain for the inevitable eulogy, Finotti said nobody should feel bad for him and added, "Hell, I've lived three lifetimes in this body.'' ...
01/21/14 Human Interest
Matt Deighton stared at the clear water in his brother's pool. It still seems so hard to believe, that on the first day of 2006 the family lost little Bishop. He was only 3.
"This is where it begins,'' Deighton said, "with the baby in the pool. This is where my inner faith developed. I'm not sure I realized it then, but I sure know it now.''
Time has dulled some of the pain, but Deighton has chilling memories of the call he got that day from his older brother Mike in New Port Richey. Mike had been watching his grandson but got distracted by friends wishing him well for the new year. He thinks the family dog might have knocked the boy in the pool....
01/17/14 Human Interest
Four white doves share a cage in the Amazing Lembo's workshop, constantly cooing and making a noise that sounds like laughter. "Mating call,'' says Lembo, who most often goes by Paul. He once had 20 doves that flew from top hats and handkerchiefs, but even a magician can't make things live forever. "The last four are retired," he says, "like me."
He's a 76-year-old cancer survivor, but hardly what you would consider retired. Mail trucks regularly deliver broken magic tricks to his house in the Golden Acres community near New Port Richey and Lembo fixes them. He's rarely stumped and maintains the same patience and ingenuity that years ago earned him a place on the team to land astronauts on the moon....