12/06/13 Human Interest
It's official. Barley the possum is a winner.
Soon he will appear as a calendar pinup in what may be a first for possums everywhere. Barley claimed first place in a cutest-pet contest that ended Dec. 1, sponsored on Facebook by Furever Yours Pet Rescue and Placement Services in Tampa. He raced to the top with votes from nearly 1,000 Facebook "friends."
Susan Laurenzi of San Diego is one. She was visiting her family in Hudson last spring when she fell in love with Barley's sweet face that accompanied an April 23 Tampa Bay Times story. Barley then went on the local TV circuit....
Friends with 77 years of service represent GFWC Lutz/Land O'Lakes Woman's Club at Lutz Arts and Crafts Festival11/29/13 Human Interest
Elfriede Rapp's eyes sparkle, recalling good times with Rosalie Johnson, giving her an elbow nudge that brings laughter from both. The women know the value of friendship: Elfriede is 90 and Rosalie will soon be 93. They've been friends for 23 years and have spent most of their lives helping others.
They have a combined total of 77 years of service — 54 years for Rosalie and 23 for Elfriede — with the General Federation of Women's Clubs, most of it with the Lutz/Land O'Lakes Woman's Club....
10/04/13 Human Interest
Warm smells of banana cake filled my kitchen, blending with abundant memories of a generation slipping into shadows, including the recall of old businesses such as A&P stores that once thrived nationwide.
The banana cake and A&P are closely related, and it's from the memories of my mother-in-law, Betty Diederich of Largo, that I gathered the banana cake recipe and heard its story.
A&P was the abbreviation for the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co., the largest food retailer in the United States from 1915 to 1975. The company that developed the first self-serve supermarkets, as all grocery stores are today, now has supermarkets under six different names in the mid-Atlantic and New England states. ...
07/30/13 Human Interest
DADE CITY — Two decades after he first started training, Noah Lopez earned a coveted karate black belt last month.
Watching his 6-year-old son take up the martial art is what drew him back.
"When I started back, I wasn't in shape and I had a lot to relearn," said Lopez.
In 1990, he was finishing up at Lacoochee Elementary when he attended a karate tournament in Brooksville to watch his cousin compete. He filled out a card for a drawing offering a free month of karate instruction at Spivey Karate. Soon, he got a call that he'd won. ...
Evan Guillon quickly grabbed a copy of Charlotte's Web, almost jumping with excitement.
"YES! Mrs. Miller read this to us and it got me inspired," the first-grader announced.
Lynn Miller, his teacher at Chester W. Taylor Elementary, nodded approval and Evan hugged his find with a huge smile.
It's hard to say a great benefit came from someone's too-early accidental death, especially when that someone was Susanne Broadbelt, a beloved Pasco County educator. But on Friday, every child at Chester W. Taylor Elementary, Woodland Elementary and West Zephyrhills Elementary wrapped small hands around a good book for summer reading and carried it home for keeps — in memory of Sue, as most knew her....
04/27/13 Human Interest
Calvin Johnson's heart was big as a mountain when it came to kids and family.
I met Cal and his wife, Cindy, in the mid '90s when I was a teacher at Seven Springs Elementary. Cindy, who has nurse's training, worked then as a paraprofessional in a preschool classroom with special-needs children. Their daughter Brina was in my third-grade class, and Dara became my student a few years later....
04/23/13 Human Interest
The tiny baby's odds of survival were slim. At four weeks, he was alone, his mom and siblings snuffed out by a car. It's likely the baby possum would have been a vulture's meal — but for the actions of one motorist and the unpredictable events that followed.
In the spring of 2012, a woman retrieved the dead mother possum from the road and took her to Blue Pearl Veterinary Clinic in Tampa. The baby was scooped from the marsupial's pouch where he nursed. He had a fractured leg. Recovery seemed unlikely....
03/30/13 Human Interest
As children everywhere go on the hunt today for pastel-colored treats, I'm reminded of my first-grade Easter egg hunt, where I gained something much more valuable than first prize.
Schools back in 1956, particularly those in rural areas like my home in Macon County, N.C., operated under different rules than now. Teachers and parents felt completely comfortable loading up kids in cars and trucks — no seatbelts in those days, either — and taking them on a learning experience. That's how we all got to the big field adjoining my classmate Mike's house....
TAMPA — Eight-year-old Woody Machado has the answer to an ages-old question. He says chickens came first and then came the eggs!
It only takes a few minutes of watching Woody and his brother Dustin, 5, their arms full of red, black and tan hens, to see that they hold deep regard for the small flock they tend, gathering eggs and selling them to neighbors. In fact, the eggs are so popular, the boys keep a waiting list of neighbors wanting to purchase the fresh eggs from their chickens that roam free around the Machado home off W Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa....
02/23/13 Human Interest
Fannie Mae Arnold, at East Franklin Elementary School in Franklin, N.C., didn't know back in May 1956 that she was making an early impact on Hometown Pasco, the community news pages that run each Thursday and Sunday in the Pasco Times (and now online — more on that in a minute).
Mrs. Arnold was my first-grade teacher back then, and Hometown Pasco, computers and the Web were far in the future. ...
02/23/13 Human Interest
Bob Luce was fishing trash from the Hillsborough River when he spotted the young alligator basking in the sun, its toothy "smile" showing a fishing lure hooked in its lower lip. With deep passion for both the river and its inhabitants, Luce felt compelled to help.
After a few days of trying, Luce, who has a permit from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for rescuing wildlife, used a long pole with a loop and snared the alligator. Rolling the reptile to one side, keeping the animal off-balance, Luce guided the gator to his kayak. The lure became unhooked almost unassisted....
02/08/13 Human Interest
Twenty-six years ago on Valentine's Day, a special fellow handed me a small, hand-carved wooden box. I slid the lid back. There was an engagement ring surrounding a small conversation heart with the words "Marry Me."
It still rates as one of the best proposals I know.
It was not the first — nor would it be the last — time those little candy hearts with messages would be special to me....
12/22/12 Human Interest
The 5-year-old boy slowly approached Santa, young reasoning allowing that Santa could grant his wish.
"Can you tell my daddy I miss him and love him?" the little fellow asked, adding that his daddy had recently died.
Behind the Santa beard, Wesley Norton, grandpa and Vietnam veteran with a big heart for kids, swallowed the lump in his throat and assured the child he'd do his best.
The encounter occurred at Dr. Mary Giella Elementary School last year and Wesley, on Thursday, returned as Santa, greeting kids with his best "HO! HO! HO!" and ready for the most unexpected wishes....
12/18/12 Human Interest
Last week the words "I'd take a bullet …" gained new meaning when a young Connecticut teacher did just that, giving her life trying to protect the children in her class from a monster with a gun.
I read what she and other educators at Sandy Hook Elementary did and my tears kept flowing. Having been a teacher for more than 30 years, most of those in elementary schools, I've known hundreds of teachers who would have done precisely the same. For most of us, when we walked into the classroom, everything about children — from their education to their happiness and safety — became paramount. Our personal safety felt far less important....
12/14/12 Human Interest
What do four Pine View Middle School girls, a boys baseball team and professional athletes have in common?
Prior to October, I might have said, well, nothing. But in recent weeks, as coordinator of Hometown Pasco news, I have received some inspiring reader submissions about young people in Pasco County taking up the cause of breast cancer awareness.
It's an outstanding act of courage and participation. Young people, with the guidance of parents, coaches and teachers, are growing up with an awareness that was missing a few decades ago....