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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 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....

  2. 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....

    Davion Only, 17, shares a smile with his new mom, Connie Going, left, and new sibling Carley Going, 17, on Wednesday during the adoption proceedings in Clearwater.
  3. 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....

    Wearing his only suit, Davion Only, 15 at the time, takes to the pulpit Sept. 22, 2013, at St. Mark Missionary Baptist church in St. Petersburg to tell the congregation that he’s a good kid who has spent his entire life in foster care and just wants a family.
  4. 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....

    Carol Jean Zimmer, nicknamed “Soot” by her grandmother, holds one of more than 70 scrap and photo books she created to archive the life of Don Zimmer, who she married at a home plate ceremony before a night game in 1951.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 ....

    Pam Nickels sold two houses and a lot to Charles Cato in October. She also gave him a set of keys.
  7. 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....

    These are some of the crafts made for loved ones by female inmates at the Pinellas County Jail who participate in the Red Tent Project, a group for nonviolent offenders to help them turn their lives around.
  8. 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.
  9. 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....

    ABOVE: Fred looks pensive during his high school graduation ceremony.
  10. 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. 
  11. 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
  12. 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....

    Construction at 330 3rd St. S in downtown St. Petersburg has recently included loud pile driving that disturbs people living nearby. The pile driver, seen on Sept. 18, 2014,  drives poles into the ground to provide support for a new apartment building. 

MONICA HERNDON | TIMES
  13. 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
  14. 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....

  15. 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....

    Rockwell