03/12/14 Human Interest
SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Ann McDonald bought a 1926 bungalow eight years ago with her sister, added a bathroom and painted it inside and out. She fashioned a driveway and landscaped the lawn with Florida plants.
Over the hearth in her living room, she put pictures of her family. In one, a grandson is held by Barack Obama, taken before he was elected president.
McDonald, 74, a social activist and historic preservationist, devoted her last years to Seminole Heights. She died Feb. 28 after a sudden illness. ...
03/07/14 Human Interest
TAMPA — A respected critic of state and national education policy is leaving Florida.
Sherman Dorn, a University of South Florida education professor, accepted a leadership position at Arizona State University, starting in July. He will be director of the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.
Dorn, 48, is an education historian of the past 70 years, a span that started with a significant growth in high school graduates that plateaued in the 1970s. He came to USF as an assistant professor in 1996 and currently chairs the Department of Psychological and Social Foundations, which will cease to exist in June as part of a reorganization at USF. ...
02/28/14 Human Interest
The farm-to-table movement — typically fare for the affluent and for trendy restaurants — is expanding to reach those with limited incomes. • Starting Sunday, food stamps can be used to buy local, organic produce at the Sweetwater Organic Community Farm Sunday Market, with a sweetened deal. Shoppers enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can use up to $10 in SNAP benefits to double the value in produce, thanks to two grants. • That equates to as much as $20 worth of produce, said Brian Smiley, the farm's operational manager. It includes kale, lettuce, carrots, choy, chard, dill and cabbage, harvested just after sunrise and available at that day's market, from noon to 4 p.m....
02/21/14 Human Interest
SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — Brian Bosco had painted the walls red and tan and stained the dining room tables. He designed a kitchen in the 1922 building so that everything had its mise en place, its place in the work flow, he said.
"I did everything by hand. A solid year of my life before it opened," said the co-owner of Domani Bistro Lounge.
Bosco was devastated by the early morning fire Tuesday that engulfed his restaurant and damaged a neighboring furniture consignment boutique, A Modern Line....
02/21/14 Human Interest
Two years ago, Tom Ries came upon a forgotten artesian spring that once provided water for Tampa.
"I poked around and pushed through shrubs and Brazilian pepper trees and saw clear water," said Ries, director of Ecosphere Restoration Institute, a nonprofit group specializing in environmental restoration. Ries followed the flow piped underground to the nearby Hillsborough River. There, he saw a manatee that had also found the freshwater source. Ries figured he could do better with Ulele Spring. ...
02/19/14 Human Interest
For some people, finishing a race is a testament of strength. For others, it's fun with friends.
There may be as many reasons to run as runners. An expected 30,000 will line up Saturday and Sunday to run distances ranging from 5 kilometers to a half marathon in the 2014 Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic.
A few stand out among the crowd. Boyd Yesler is running his 32nd consecutive year at Gasparilla, and at 63, he isn't sure he can quit....
02/07/14 Human Interest
The nest weighs more than a ton and is perched 100 feet up in a longleaf pine near U.S. 41 and the Little Manatee River.
"This is probably the most-watched nest in the county," said Nancy Murrah, volunteer Eagle Watch coordinator for Hillsborough County. Drivers regularly pull off the road, some settling into lawn chairs with binoculars, to watch these American bald eagles.
"This particular couple, they're good parents," said Murrah, 56, as she watched last week. "I guarantee one of them is watching us right now."...
01/31/14 Human Interest
Around his neck, James Allen often wears the tip of a deer antler and rib bones from a cow that are adorned with beads of white glass and black onyx. It's a symbol of his American Indian heritage and part of his life hobby, re-enacting this history. Allen, 59, who dresses as a warrior and answers to Duckfeather, has been part of the living history at the Fort Foster Rendezvous for 15 years. This year, he will orchestrate demonstrations with military, Seminoles and civilians for schoolchildren Thursday and Friday and then for the public Feb. 8-9 at the annual event at Hillsborough River State Park. Tampa Bay Times reporter Elisabeth Parker caught up with Allen to learn what it was like to live in the area as a settler and after the United States bought Florida from Spain....
01/22/14 Human Interest
Cross the gangplank onto the deck — painted fire-engine red — for a rare tour of the Jose Gasparilla.
Flags flutter overhead as 50 men prep for Saturday's siege. On the 1 1/2-hour trip to take the city, the ship will smell of fried chicken and beer and gunpowder and the blasts of 20 cannons will be deafening.
"It's not for amateurs," said Peter Lackman, 52. "We are professional pirates."...
01/17/14 Human Interest
Charles Parks, 14, was in foster care for 10 years. He, along with Kyle and Robyn Matthews, had lived through their own tragedies.
Circuit Judge Katherine Essrig had presided over Charles' case for years and worried that the Matthewses might not be up to the challenge. Then she clicked on a link and read their blog at becauseofezra.org.
"It added a whole other dimension," she said. "I feel like I know them. I don't always feel like that."...
The books are all in at the new Seminole Heights Branch Library, and sometime in the coming weeks, doors will open.
"We're getting the bugs worked out and definitely will open by the end of January," said Bill Hand, a county project manager for the site.
The "soft" opening at 4711 Central Ave. will come without the fanfare of a ribbon cutting expected later, probably in February, Hand said....
12/27/13 Human Interest
As balled-up wrapping paper fills garbage bags, ornaments return to protective cases and light displays begin to dwindle, the hope that our readers gave four families this holiday season will extend well into 2014.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Times presented its Holiday Hopes series, profiling people and families in need and sharing their holiday wishes in the hopes someone would lend a hand. And many did deliver, filling our recipients with gratitude. Here's how the community shined....
12/20/13 Human Interest
Perry Young met Samantha in eighth grade. They were different than the other kids, both dreaming of a big world, far from their hometown of Adairsville, Ga. One day in the high school lunchroom, they came up with an escape, a trip to Jamaica. It would be exotic. They would bask on beaches and swim in a cove with a beautiful waterfall. By the end of lunch, they made a pact: After graduation they would go together. • But they had no money. And nothing scared them more than following generations of their families into the town's carpet factories. So Perry enlisted in the Army. • After basic training, they realized there was something more between them than friendship. At 18, they said their vows in a candlelit chapel and soon were eating "beef and leaf" from street vendors in Korea. He had signed up for an infantry tour, wanting to do exactly what he saw on television commercials, and both of them accepted the risks. • One tour in Afghanistan led to another. Then in July, while returning from a mission, Perry remembers telling his platoon leader they were in a treacherous place. That was just before a bomb went off. • Later he would remember that right before it happened, the man, sitting on a donkey, was awkwardly perched on top of something covered by a blanket. • Perry saw his eyes. He looked angry....
12/13/13 Human Interest
Sometimes they cry because they miss their other mommies. • That makes Ruby Brown cry, too. She tells them through the tears that she knows how they feel. Her own mother had been a young teen and gave her to an older sister to raise. • Ruby had wondered as a child: Why would my mother give me to my aunt? • There are 10 now, siblings and cousins, the children of Ruby's four great-nieces. • She takes them into her wood-frame home, built in 1918 and sagging from its seams. Five boys in one room, five girls in another. Anthony, at 13, is oldest. Emony will turn 2 on Christmas. • If she couldn't keep them, she wonders, who would? • She's not young anymore, she reminds them gently when they act up. She is 66. • "We've got to do this as a team," she says. • The team started seven years ago with the first four. The last four came seven months ago. • They call her Mama Joy. • She calls them her ministry....
They held a ring toss at the fall festival and donated profits from a jewelry party. And when their kids perform, they pass a hat. Parents pool pocket change with more generous donations to pay the salary for a violin teacher shared by Mitchell and Gorrie elementary schools. Five years ago, the district cut the strings program in traditional elementary schools, as fiscal austerity strained culture budgets across the country. So the parents at the two South Tampa schools decided to pick up the tab for Todd Jefferis. He had been teaching their children nearly 10 years at that point....