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Lane DeGregory, Times Staff Writer

Lane DeGregory

Lane DeGregory is a Pulitzer Prize-winning Tampa Bay Times feature writer who prefers writing about people in the shadows. She went to work with a 100-year-old man who still swept out a seafood warehouse, hung out beneath a bridge with a colony of sex offenders, followed a feral child who was adopted.

Lane graduated from the University of Virginia, where she was editor in chief of the Cavalier Daily student newspaper. Later, she earned a master's degree in rhetoric and communication studies from the University of Virginia.

For 10 years, she wrote news and feature stories for the Virginian-Pilot, based in Norfolk, Va. In 2000, Lane moved to Florida to write for the Times. She's married to a drummer, Dan DeGregory, and they have two teenage sons, Ryland and Tucker.

Lane's stories have appeared in the Best Newspaper Writing editions of 2000, 2004, 2006 and 2008. She has taught journalism at the University of South Florida - St. Petersburg, been a speaker at the Nieman Narrative Conference at Harvard University and has won dozens of national awards, including the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing.

Other awards include:

2014: Finalist, American Society of Newspaper Editors Batten Medal for portfolio.

2012: Finalist, American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for nondeadline writing.

2011: Inducted as a Fellow with the Society of Professional Journalists for lifetime achievement.

2010: Winner, American Society of Newspaper Editors Batten Medal for portfolio.

2009: Winner, National Headliner Award for feature writing.

2008: Winner, American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for nondeadline writing.

2007: Winner, Ernie Pyle Award from the Scripps Howard Foundation for human interest writing.

Phone: (727) 893-8825

Email: degregory@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LaneDeGregory

Phone: (727) 893-8825

Email: degregory@tampabay.com

Twitter: @LaneDeGregory

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  1. A mom ponders her identity as her firstborn leaves for college

    Human Interest

    All year, I watched our son plan his escape.

    He started designing his dorm room in June, downloading the dimensions, measuring to make sure all his computer equipment would fit, ordering a tapestry of his favorite band to blanket the wall above his new bed.

    "I'm ready," he kept telling me. "I got this."

    For him, summer seemed too long.

    For me, college orientation arrived like an ambush....

    Lane DeGregory Photos Lane DeGregory and her first son, Ryland DeGregory for the Floridian column .
  2. Friends, strangers, young and old rally raucously for the Bolts

    Features

    TAMPA

    He hoped someone would pick him up from the bus station. After riding almost five hours from Miami, he pressed his face against the window, searching for a friend or stranger.

    His high school buddy, Sean, had to set up the tailgate party. Michael, who was letting him crash at his place, was at a funeral. Michael's wife wasn't allowed to come to the games. She was bad luck.

    So Mason Bradford, 24, had posted a plea on the fan club's Facebook page, asking for a ride from the Tampa bus station to the arena for Saturday's hockey game. Plenty of people had said they would try to help, but no one had promised....

    What started with three guys has turned into a group of more than 300 who beat drums and wave flags in a rowdy procession to the arena.
  3. Tampa kindergarteners celebrate Phoebe Jonchuck with 'reading garden'

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — For weeks, the kindergarteners worked on their stepping stones, studying the shapes, penciling their plans, picking out pieces for the presents they were making for Phoebe — their friend who was "up in Cloud School."

    "I miss Phoebe," one girl wrote beside a smiley face.

    "I luv Febe," another inscribed above two stick figures holding hands.

    The girl who had sat next to Phoebe Jonchuck, who had been her first best friend, drew an angel with curly hair, a steep smile, and fluttery wings. "Phoebe," she sketched, "You are my friend!"...

    Stepping stones created  in memory of  Phoebe Jonchuck by her kindergarten classmates at Cleveland Elementary School, family members and school staff  in the "reading garden." [CHERIE DIEZ | Times]
  4. A tale of two mothers: What one gave up to ease the ache of the other

    Human Interest

    LINDSAY

    When she got the call, Lindsay told herself not to get excited. So many things could still go wrong. Remember what happened last time?

    But she couldn't help it. Her heart was racing, her stomach tight. When she told her husband, her voice shook, "The baby is coming."

    Three states away, a woman they had never met was in labor.

    If they drove all night from Franklin, Tenn., they might get to the Florida hospital in time for the birth of the boy they hoped would become their son....

    Lawyer Kathleen Calcutt, right, looks through adoption paperwork with birth parents Frankie Boccia and Tiffany Taylor. 
[EVE EDELHEIT | Times]
  5. A hospice care primer and how to find care in the Tampa Bay area

    Health

    Hospices started opening in the United States in the 1970s, primarily for cancer patients who chose not to continue treatment. Over the years, hospices have evolved to also care for people suffering from heart and lung disease, dementia and other progressive ailments.

    If a doctor thinks someone has less than six months to live, that person can qualify for services. Hospice agencies provide doctors, nurses, social workers and chaplains to help patients ease toward their end, often at home....

  6. Davion Only's quest for a family comes to a formal end

    Human Interest

    CLEARWATER — He looked straight ahead as he threaded through the crowded courtroom, packed with more than 50 people who had filled in for his family.

    His social worker was there, his mentor, his last foster mom. Even that lady from the church where he had stood up, more than a year ago, and asked someone to adopt him.

    Davion Navar Henry Only, 17, walked past them all on Wednesday and slid into a wooden chair, facing the judge. His former caseworker, Connie Going, sat beside him. His face was blank. She couldn't stop smiling....

    Applause filles courtroom as the adoption of Davion Only, 17, second from left,  is finalized Wednesday at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center. New mom, Connie Going, left,  and new siblings , from left, Carley Going, 17, Taylor Going ,14, and Sydney Going, 21, are also pictured. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]
  7. Finally, a family for Davion (w/video)

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    For a long time after he was sent back to Florida, Davion didn't want to talk.

    Not to the counselors the agency sent to console him; not to the guys from his old group home or the teachers at his new high school. Not to the foster parents who took him in; he knew they didn't plan to keep him. Or to the church people he had stood before when he asked someone — anyone — to adopt him....

    Davion Only laughs while playing a video game and listening to his soon-to-be-mother share family stories in the living room of their St. Petersburg home March 23. Going says her friends thought she was crazy for wanting to adopt another child.
  8. Don Zimmer's wife documented every day of his 66 years in pro baseball (w/video)

    Human Interest

    By LANE DeGREGORY

    Times Staff Writer

    SEMINOLE — The last scrapbook has lots of blank pages. ¶ It ends on the first day of January, with the Boston Globe's Year in Review. "Gone but not forgotten," the headline says. The full-page photo is of her husband wearing his Red Sox uniform, smiling sideways in the sun. ¶ Since then, no newspaper had printed his name. At least not that Soot Zimmer has seen. ¶ After seven decades, she thought her scrapbooking days were done....

    Soot and Don Zimmer are married at a home plate ceremony in Elmira, N.Y., on Aug. 16, 1951. They started dating in high school.
  9. As time wanes, a bucket list becomes less adventurous, more emotional

    Features

    LARGO

    Last Sunday, a couple of hours before their kids were supposed to come over, Robert "Smitty" Smith called his wife to his bedside and told her, "I'm sorry. I don't think I can make it."

    He had been holding on for this evening. Their daughter, Nicole, was going to drive. Their son, Nathan, was going to help with the wheelchair. They were going to see the Tampa Bay Lightning game....

    Robert and Caron Smith celebrate one of five Lightning goals scored that evening. Before the game, Smith predicted the team would score five times, and he stayed till it did.
  10. Rolls-Royce emerges from the shadows for more days in the sun (w/video)

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    For decades, the two white houses had been dying.

    Side-by-side they slumped, on an overgrown lot, at the edge of an old neighborhood where new owners were rebuilding. Paint was flaking off their rotten siding. Boards blanketed the wide windows. Around both, signs screamed, "No Trespassing."

    The homes, two-story wooden duplexes, had been born in the '20s. An office had been beneath one. The other sagged over a two-car garage ....

    Pamela Nickels kept this 1956 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud in the garage beneath her old duplex in St. Petersburg. Her father, John, top right with Nickels’ mother, Gerry, collected classic cars, but the Silver Cloud was Nickels’ favorite.
  11. For women in the Pinellas County Jail, the Red Tent room offers tears, growth, hope

    Human Interest

    Editor's note: The four-hour Red Tent Project session was recorded. The women's words have been edited for length and clarity.

    LARGO

    Two afternoons a week, after lunch, before laundry duty, a dozen women at the Pinellas County Jail leave their pods and thread down a long, dark corridor — through 10 locked doors, past a guard station, into a space they call the Red Tent Room....

    Pinellas County Jail inmates Amanda Casler, left, and Yalira M. Perez have a light moment at a Red Tent Project meeting at the jail in December. Perez, 26, is in jail for forgery. “I’ve been rejected all my life, and I’m used to it,” she says. “I’m a loving, giving person. But I belittle myself, and I deserve that.”
  12. In Pahokee, football serves as a way out

    Life

    PAHOKEE — On the day he thought would change everything, Fred left home early while his siblings, nieces and nephews slept. He skipped breakfast, not even a Pop-Tart. His stomach was tight with excitement.

    As he waited outside for his ride to school, a slate sky blanketed the black muck behind him. Ahead, the sun climbed above the clouds, casting a golden glow across the projects.

    Dontrell "Fred" Johnson, 19, pulled the flip phone from his shorts: 7:28 a.m. Then he shouldered his flowered backpack, which was stuffed with hope....

    The Summer before his senior year of high school, Fred decided it would be best to focus on raising his grades. So he transferred to Everglades Prep Charter School from Pahokee Middle Senior High, to do credit recovery and get away from friends who he though might be a bad influence. during his senior year, he stuck to his principles, and would often stay in class and work, getting lunch at the very end, and eating by himself. "I'm doing this for me," he said. "I've got to focus on me and keep my head right."
  13. In Pahokee, football serves as a way out

    Human Interest

    PAHOKEE — On the day he thought would change everything, Fred left home early while his siblings, nieces and nephews slept. He skipped breakfast, not even a Pop-Tart. His stomach was tight with excitement.

    As he waited outside for his ride to school, a slate sky blanketed the black muck behind him. Ahead, the sun climbed above the clouds, casting a golden glow across the projects.

    Dontrell "Fred" Johnson, 19, pulled the flip phone from his shorts: 7:28 a.m. Then he shouldered his flowered backpack, which was stuffed with hope....

    From the time almost every little boy in Pahokee can walk and talk he’s dreaming about growing up to be a Pahokee Blue Devil. The unemployment rate is nearly 50 percent in Pahokee, as is the high school graduation rate. And nearly 80 percent of the residents live in public housing. As you drive through the projects there, you will see just about 100% of the kids that are outside playing football -- often with games going on in every open space, on every corner and in every sand lot. Here, Necler Legros, 8, goes up high for a catch over top of the outstretched hands of Christopher Day, 6, during a pick-up game in the projects where they live.
  14. Time is short, but Zeke the Labrador lives to keep his owner alive

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    The first time it happened, Gerald Rittinger was driving to buy his gravestone. His diabetes was getting worse. Doctors had just diagnosed him with prostate cancer. They gave him six months. Gerald's wife, Jeanne, was in the passenger seat of their Lincoln that day. Their puppy, Zeke, was supposed to stay in the back seat. But the yellow Labrador kept putting his big paws on the console between them, inching forward. They headed north on Interstate 75 to his family cemetery in Kentucky. After about three hours, Zeke stood up and began barking. "Down! Zeke, get down!" Jeanne scolded, tugging at his collar. Zeke leapt up, nuzzling his wet nose against Gerald's neck. Licking his face. Laughing, Gerald tried to push away the puppy. But Zeke wouldn't back off. His barking got louder. The dog became so agitated that Gerald had to pull off the highway. Seconds later, Gerald had a seizure. "If he had still been driving," Jeanne said, "all of us would have been killed." That was 12 years ago. Gerald had his headstone engraved, planted it in the graveyard, then came home to die. But Zeke wouldn't let him....

    Despite having no training at all, Zeke, 13, knows when Gerald Rittinger’s diabetic condition worsens. He alerted Gerald’s wife, Jeanne, and neighbors when Gerald has passed out from low blood sugar — and during his second stroke. How does he do it? Nobody knows. But this persistent yellow Lab has retrieved days, months and years for his ailing, grateful owner.
  15. Where did peace and quiet go?

    Human Interest

    I just needed a quiet corner to curl up in, to finish writing. I had spent a year reporting a story, which was set to run in Sunday's newspaper. But my son had been invited to a dance competition, so we had driven almost two hours to Orlando, to a Disney resort. While he rehearsed, I had to finish editing the project.

    It was too loud in the ballroom where his class was practicing. Even in the hall, the hip-hop tunes throbbed. I went to the lobby. Light rock was wafting above the armchairs. I tried the restaurant. The bar TV blared some soccer game; the commentators kept shouting. There was a couch in the ladies' room that would have worked. But 1970s songs spilled into the stalls. Outside by the pool, pop tunes overpowered the children's squeals....

    ST. PETERSBURG 11/26/2012 7. Lane DeGregory. FOR FLORIDIAN.  SCOTT KEELER | TAMPA BAY TIMES