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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. 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.
  2. 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 Nickles, now 52,  displays a photo of her parents John and Gerry Nickles with one of her father’s cars, a 1937 Rolls Royce P3.
  3. 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 Karen Fleming, left, and Traci Johnson, right, give their craft projects a rest and listen while Shirley Parker talks and sews at a Red Tent Project meeting in December. Parker, 59, is in jail this time for larceny and retail theft. “Two weeks after I got out last time, I came right back in here,” she says. “My purpose in coming to Red Tent is to find a new direction. I need to learn how to live sober. I’m not a bad person. I just do bad things.”
  4. 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....

    Legendary Pahokee football coach Don Thompson's son, Blaze, is the head football coach at Pahokee High School now. During the 2013-14 school year, only four of the varsity team's players still had a dad in their life. So, by default that role falls to Blaze and his assistant coaches -- for offering guidance, teaching discipline and for small tasks, like tying ties for most of his players, like Kenard Davis (shown here) before the annual Muck Bowl banquet. The ties were also all provided by the high school.
  5. 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....

    Fred’s mother, Hendretta Drummer, covers her eyes with her arms as Pahokee blows a 21-point lead to Belle Glade at the Muck Bowl.
  6. 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, a 13-year-old Labrador retriever, sits with his owner, Gerald Rittinger, 74, of St. Petersburg earlier this month. Zeke has saved Rittinger’s life many times — despite having no training.
  7. 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
  8. 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
  9. 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
  10. 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....

    Carol Mathis, who teaches in St. Petersburg High’s International Baccalaureate program, hugs senior Sarah Anderson, 17. Mathis retires at the end of the school year.
  11. 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
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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....

  15. 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....

    Beverly and C.W. Bill Young serve food aboard the USS Pearl Harbor on Easter Sunday 2000. Beverly christened the ship.