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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. 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. 
  2. 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
  3. 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....

    The object of residents’ ire: Piles of pilings that must be hammered deep into the earth in order to support the 17-story apartment tower at 330 Third St. S in downtown St. Petersburg.
  4. 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
  5. 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....

  6. 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
  7. 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. ...

    Dakota Rockwell, 20, hugs Barb Bushnell, from the USF College of Business, for helping him shop for his first suit at Macy's. [MELISSA LYTTLE   |   Times]
  8. 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.
  9. The struggles of Bill Young's widow and her feud w David Jolly

    Blog

    The congressman's widow couldn't stop crying.

    Curled in the corner of her leather couch, clutching her new Yorkie, Camo, she sat alone in her immaculate townhouse. Love songs from the '70s wafted from the kitchen radio. Outside the doors, the sun slid toward the sea.

    That evening, the first Sunday in July, was dragging on like so many others. Ten months after her husband died, she still expected him to come home....

  10. Bill Young's widow struggles to find peace and meaning in life without congressman (w/ video)

    Politics

    The congressman's widow couldn't stop crying.

    Curled in the corner of her leather couch, clutching her new Yorkie, Camo, she sat alone in her immaculate townhouse. Love songs from the '70s wafted from the kitchen radio. Outside the doors, the sun slid toward the sea.

    That evening, the first Sunday in July, was dragging on like so many others. Ten months after her husband died, she still expected him to come home....

    U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young jokes around with his then-legislative aide David Jolly while visiting a prison during a trip to Italy in in the 1990s.
  11. Orphan Davion Only back in Florida; altercation ends dream of adoption (video)

    News

    He thought he had finally found a family.

    After 16 years of floundering in foster care, after taking the pulpit at a St. Petersburg church last September asking someone — anyone — to adopt him, after his story was shared around the world and 10,000 people offered to help or take him home, Davion Only moved to Ohio in March to live with the parents who had promised to care for him forever and love him no matter what....

    Davion Only, 15, follows along with the Sunday sermon at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church. MELISSA LYTTLE   |   Times (09/22/13 St. Petersburg, Fla.)
  12. Orphan Davion Only back in Florida; altercation ends dream of adoption (video)

    Human Interest

    He thought he had finally found a family.

    After 16 years of floundering in foster care, after taking the pulpit at a St. Petersburg church last September asking someone — anyone — to adopt him, after his story was shared around the world and 10,000 people offered to help or take him home, Davion Only moved to Ohio in March to live with the parents who had promised to care for him forever and love him no matter what....

    Davion Only, then 15, follows along with the Sunday sermon at St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in St. Petersburg in September.
  13. Emails from France reveal a father's D-day horror and the hospitality that followed

    Human Interest

    GULFPORT

    He didn't open the first email. He thought it was spam, some memorabilia about World War II. The subject line said: "USCG in Normandy."

    Kirk Vail, 60, is a plumber, like his dad. He knew his dad had been stationed at St. Petersburg's Coast Guard station, and that he had turned 26 the day his cutter joined the D-day invasion — 70 years ago today.

    But that was about it....

    Louie the cook on my Dad's ship. It is also a good shot of the scull and crossbones that was painted on their ship as well as on the front of all of their battle helmets.
SUMMERY: Degregory story about Kirk Vail knew his father, Ralph Pershing Vail, was in the Coast Guard and had played a role in the D-Day invasion. Other than that he didn't know too much. Then a few months ago, an email arrived from France and with it a picture of man with a Clark Gable mustache. The sender had been a young boy living in a small town in Normandy when the Allies invaded. Over the better part of a year he got to know the Coast Guardsmen who were stationed nearby. What he told Kirk about his father's war experiences enabled Kirk to go looking for even more information about the Coast Guard's service on June 6, including their duty to retrieve the wounded and the dead from the bloody surf. 
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  14. Beverly Young: I'm running against David Jolly in '16

    Blog

    Democrats failed to find a candidate to challenge Republican David Jolly for the congressional seat long held by the late C.W. Bill Young, but they may have one lined up for 2016: Beverly Young, the congressman's widow who campaigned for Jolly earlier this year.

    “I am absolutely going to run against David in 2016. I’d do it now if I could. If I’d known that the Democrats wouldn’t put anyone up on that ballot, I’d have been there myself this time. I thought they had a candidate. I wouldn’t have been ready. But I would have run anyway," Mrs. Young said Tuesday night in an interview. She is angry about the way Jolly fired her late husband's congressional staffers and feels he has turned one of her sons, Patrick, against her....

  15. Beverly Young vows to run for Jolly seat in 2016

    State Roundup

    Democrats failed to find a candidate to challenge Republican David Jolly for the congressional seat long held by the late C.W. Bill Young, but they may have one lined up for 2016: Beverly Young, the congressman's widow who campaigned for Jolly earlier this year.

    "I am absolutely going to run against David in 2016. I'd do it now if I could. If I'd known that the Democrats wouldn't put anyone up on that ballot, I'd have been there myself this time. I thought they had a candidate. I wouldn't have been ready. But I would have run anyway," Mrs. Young said Tuesday night in an interview. She is angry about the way Jolly fired her late husband's congressional staffers and feels he has turned one of her sons, Patrick, against her....

    Left: Beverly Young, left, the widow of the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. Right: His successor, U.S. Rep. David Jolly.