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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. 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....

    Going helps Davion with his suit and tie before going into the church to make his plea to be adopted. He’d asked Going to adopt him many times, but she kept saying, “You deserve more. You need a dad.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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 “Smitty” Smith fist-bumps Scott Farrell during the Feb. 8 Tampa Bay Lightning game, the fourth of five items on his bucket list.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 inmate Amanda Casler, center, has the attention of Yalira M. Perez, front, and Jamie Ward at a Red Tent Project meeting. Ward, 31, in for sale of cocaine, has taken on the role of host at the twice-weekly meetings, offering attendees tea or coffee as they arrive. “It’s really wonderful to be in this class,” she says. “I have a 3-year-old daughter. I didn’t even want to be a mom. I used to just jump from place to place. I can’t jump here. It’s made me think a lot about how much I do want to be a mother. … I’ve already missed so much. This group has helped me a lot in terms of talking about things and accepting them so I can move on.”
  6. 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....

    About a half hour before the National Signing Day deadline to have paper work filled out and submitted, guidance counselors swirl around Fred, as they try to help him with forms to waive the fees and making sure everything is done correctly. No offers came on National Signing Day, but later Ellsworth College, a junior college in Iowa Falls, Iowa, with a two-year feeder program to D-1 schools picked him up.
  7. 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....

    Before his last home game as a Pahokee Blue Devil, Fred raises his helmet to scan the crowd for his family.
  8. 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....

    Zeke, 13-year-old Labrador retriever, spends time with his owner, Gerald Rittinger, 74, at home in St. Petersburg in early October. Zeke has notified neighbors and Rittinger’s wife, Jeanne, numerous times when Gerald has had diabetic episodes of low blood sugar and his second stroke. “He knows when things are not right with Gerald,” Jeanne Rittinger said. Gerald Rittinger has been a diabetic since he was 39. 
  9. 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
  10. 43 times a minute, 'sound of progress' just makes people furious (w/video)

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG

    It started on a Tuesday, April 29, 7:01 a.m., while kids were eating Cheerios and professors were starting to shower and retirees were trying to sleep in.

    A steady hammering, metal on concrete, booming through downtown. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Forty-three beats per minute. So loud it rattled windows, throbbed through floors, woke people three blocks away.

    A pile driver next to the downtown Publix parking lot was pounding poles up to 200 feet into the ground, constructing the skeleton for a 17-story apartment building....

    Ear-piercing pile driving at the new apartment building next to the downtown St. Petersburg Publix began in April and continues.
  11. The raccoon and the U-turn — a back-road Florida fable (w/video)

    Human Interest

    The road to Pahokee is long and lonely: 38 miles around the southeast shore of Lake Okeechobee. During most of the drive, you can't see the state's largest lake. Just a towering cement wall, rimmed by old fish camps. And on the other side, endless acres of palmettos. You often go for miles without seeing a soul.

    Photographer Melissa Lyttle and I had been making the trip for a year: three hours from St. Pete to the tiny town that grew sugarcane and football stars, following a teenage cornerback who hoped a college scholarship would be his ticket out. So many players had made that break, only to end up back in Pahokee....

    MELISSA LYTTLE / Times
  12. From typing to HTML, teaching the tech revolution

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — In the back building at St. Pete High, in a third-floor corner classroom, Mrs. Mathis stood waiting to greet her students on her last first day of school.

    Carol Mathis, 64, has taught in that room for nearly two decades. She still has the same hexagonal tables and plastic chairs, and an old, fat Samsung TV that still plays VHS tapes.

    Posters older than her students paper the bulletin boards: cats and Gators, an IBM computer with a floppy disc....

  13. Impressed by his grit, readers offer help to USF student

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Dakota Rockwell never asked for help. He was reluctant to share all his hardships.

    But after he spoke at a University of South Florida banquet for new business students and the Times ran a story about him Monday, hundreds of strangers reached out, applauding his perseverance, wanting to ease his difficult journey.

    "His drive and determination is inspirational. This article should be mandatory reading for ALL high school students. It would be a lesson in gratitude," a reader from Tampa wrote....

    After Dakota Rockwell spoke at a University of South Florida banquet for new business students, and the Times ran a story about him Monday,  hundreds of strangers reached out, applauding his perseverance, wanting to ease his difficult journey. [MELISSA LYTTLE   |   Times
]
  14. Losing his mother turned USF student all business

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    He got the letter in July, at his mom's house in Seminole. She never would have believed it. ¶ Not after everything that had happened. ¶ Dakota Rockwell, 20, had applied to the University of South Florida as a long shot, hoping — but never dreaming — he would be accepted. ¶ Then the admissions office emailed. He could start in August, in the business school. ...

    Freshman year of high school was filled with D’s and F’s for Dakota Rockwell. He was home caring for his dying mother. Now 20, he just started as a junior at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he sits focused in a business class.
  15. Newton Murray, 100, enjoyed his work until the end

    Features

    ST. PETERSBURG — His worn broom propped him up, almost until the end.

    Even after his boss threw him a party for his 100th birthday, and kidney stones bent his back with pain, and he got so weak he had to go to the hospital, Newton Murray came back to his little boiler room at Bama Sea Products.

    And kept working. Shuffling around the sprawling warehouse in his worn coveralls, sweeping shrimp shells from the vast parking lots, greeting the guys in his thick island accent, "Hello, Cap'n!"...

    Newton Murray was a constant at Bama Sea Products.