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
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....
02/23/13 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. ...
02/08/13 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....
12/02/12 Human Interest
Holiday time is here and whether you're an early buyer or a wait-to-the-last-minute shopper, you'll have packages to wrap. Sometimes the gift paper and ribbons dig into the budget as deeply as presents themselves, especially if a personal touch is important. But there are ways to economize on wrappings and still have a gift that's attractive, fun and specific to the receiver's interests.
When my son was a teenager, I reached for wrapping paper one day, came up dry and picked up the closest thing: maps. They worked like a charm, he being an avid map lover. Since then, maps are the gift wrap of choice for him, though they have one drawback. He loves maps so much he often gets sidetracked going over the roadways on the OUTSIDE of the package, taking a long time to open the gift....
12/01/12 Human Interest
The yellow posterboard, stamped with green toddler handprints and bordered with children's photos, once reflected a safe, happy home. Now it is a relic among the ruins. Just below the posterboard, the walls were ripped away, insulation spilling out, electrical cords dangling. The floor was heaped with wet sand and trash.
Pasco sheriff's Sgt. Billy Lawless and two retired lawmen, Rich Williams and Steve Madden, saw the destruction from Hurricane Sandy first hand when they spent a week in Beach Haven, N.J., helping their fellow officers deal with one of the costliest disasters in American history. The Fraternal Order of Police sent out the call for help shortly after the Oct. 29 superstorm, and these three members of the Pasco FOP joined a Florida delegation that headed north....
11/28/12 Human Interest
I've carried on a quiet love affair for 45 years. It's no worry to my husband because this love is for fruitcake — and with a good reason.
This affair renews after the last tidbit of turkey has gone into creamed vegetable soup, which is served at our house a few days after Thanksgiving over the remnants of cornbread stuffing. When you're raised in the southern Appalachian Mountains there is ONLY one stuffing and it's the cornbread kind. My first husband, born in upstate New York and raised in Tampa, scoffed at cornbread stuffing seasoned with sage and fresh ground pepper, so he'd wad up white bread and make a gooey stuffing at which I promptly scoffed. Stuffing didn't push our divorce, but for 16 years it was a needling point....
11/22/12 Human Interest
Susanne Broadbelt was like many Pasco County reading specialists. Her face turned serious at district meetings when we discussed state mandates and ways of testing reading skills. But as soon as the topic turned to children and books, her face lit up like a light bulb.
A few years back, she and I held the same job at different schools. Sue worked at Chester W. Taylor Elementary in Zephyrhills. I worked at Longleaf Elementary in Trinity. When we crossed paths at those district meetings, I could see she was passionate about connecting children and teachers with good books....
11/17/12 Human Interest
NEW PORT RICHEY — All 78 pounds of Domineeka Luis hung by the tips of her toes on the skinny edge of the 1-meter board.
A sharp spring sent Domineeka, 15, airborne. Then she cleanly sliced into the water. Seconds later her head popped up.
"That was it!" Domineeka called out to her dive coach, Maureen Leech. "I went in like perfect! I felt it!"
"Oh-h-h! Yes!" said Leech, whom Domineeka affectionately calls "Coach Mo."...