10/22/09 Human Interest
Jennifer Graber took a mock sobriety test while wearing "drunk goggles" during a special demonstration Tuesday by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office at St. Petersburg College in Seminole.
A few hours later a couple of miles to the north at Indian Rocks Christian School, John Templeton Jr. was telling about his horrifying experience with the real thing.
"I woke up handcuffed to a gurney and was told I was under arrest for vehicular homicide," said Templeton, a 19-year-old University of South Florida student in 2002 when he killed 18-year-old Julie Buckner in a drunken-driving crash on Interstate 275....
10/13/09 Human Interest
David Ruppel of Largo is a banker with a passion for jazz. He's managed banks throughout Pinellas County for more than two decades, and has an active family life with his wife and five children. He's also managed to find time for a labor of love as president of the Clearwater Jazz Holiday Foundation board. In this volunteer position, Ruppel is gearing up for the event's 30th anniversary festival, which starts Thursday. ...
02/03/09 Human Interest
TAMPA — Meeting Vernon Davis, Steve Christie, Garo Yepremian, Jeff Hatch, Andre Collins and other NFL stars had never crossed the mind of Largo artist Susan Kubes.
"My husband, Tom, likes football, but I wasn't all that interested," Kubes said.
Kubes and her husband not only met those players, but also found plenty of common ground for discussion last weekend.
She was chosen to participate in Smocks & Jocks, a jazz brunch and art auction that features the artwork of former and current NFL players and takes place each year in conjunction with the Super Bowl. ...
08/26/08 Human Interest
Christina Rohloff, 32, is a DJ from Largo. She is a former communications and marketing specialist for the city.
1What led you to become a DJ? My father has been a DJ for 32 years. I used to help him carry and set up his equipment. I began 13 years ago. My father has given me all kinds of great advice about the business, so I guess I owe it all to him. Also, I am a ham. I love getting involved and meeting people....
His tools are clippers, shears and passion; he is an artist. For Sam Lee of Clearwater, there is no such thing as a routine haircut. Lee, 37, graduates next month from the American Institute of Beauty of Largo as a master barber. Michael Halmon, an owner of AIB, said the master barber program requires 20 hours a week for 15 months for part-time students. "It's quite a commitment." Halmon said AIB is the only school in the county to offer the master barber program. ...
When Douglas Eveleth became head of school at St. Paul's School in Clearwater in 1991, the student body numbered 140. By the time Eveleth retired this month, it had grown to 500-plus.
"One of Dr. Eveleth's greatest strengths is the ability to include all of the families to become a bigger family," said school development director Laura Flannigan of Largo, a parent of St. Paul's students in the sixth and second grades....
07/26/08 Human Interest
For nearly 10 years the High Point Neighborhood Family Center was known as "the little house."
But Thursday night, an estimated 900 people turned out to celebrate the center moving to a bigger home — a new 7,200-square-foot facility at 5812 150th Ave. N.
"It's a bigger place to help more people," resident Michelle Wyant said.
"This is a blessing falling from the sky," Pinellas County sheriff's community patrol Officer Cheko Carter said. "This is a centralized building where everyone can come and receive equal services."...
07/19/08 Human Interest
Imagine a wellness program that requires you to laugh heartily. That's what happens when Patty Darcy of Largo gathers a group to practice "laughter yoga." Darcy, 64, said laughter yoga promotes better sleep, lowers stress and is backed by research. She took a few moments last week to explain some details about the health program that has become her passion.
1What is laughter yoga? Unlike Hatha yoga, the emphasis is not on poses or postures but on breathing. Laughter exercises create deep breathing. The deep breathing releases endorphins and suppresses stress hormones. It's inner jogging for your organs. Using laughter as an exercise tool, it's a cardiovascular and wellness program. There are more than 5,000 laughter clubs worldwide....
07/19/08 Human Interest
Deep in the trench, lanterns flicker as machine guns above fire away. "Rat-a-tat-tat." The sound of the diving Red Baron is suddenly heard as smoke pours in. The radio chatter intensifies. In the distance, the rumble of tanks begins.
Created as a living experience of history, Largo's new Armed Forces Military Museum is set to open Aug. 16. The 35,000-square-foot museum features lifelike displays and engages multiple senses with theatrical lighting, unusual artifacts, projected video and well-placed sound effects....
07/19/08 Human Interest
When the Lance Armstrong Foundation wanted a partner to design and deliver exercise programs and well-being initiatives for cancer survivors, it looked to the YMCA of the USA.
Specifically, it looked to the Bardmoor branch of the YMCA of the Suncoast in Largo.
Bardmoor YMCA is one of 10 YMCAs nationwide chosen to pilot the initiative, paving the way for a national program within the next six months....
07/12/08 Human Interest
“Harry Potter Shops Here" reads the sign on the wall. I had just discovered the Trick Shop, the only magic store in Pinellas County.
Owner Steve Cargill greeted me dressed the part of a magician with his trademark cigar in his teeth. As I looked around the small shop, I couldn't stop smiling. Perhaps I'm gullible, but I've always loved the mystery of illusions and magic tricks.
Cargill, a professional magician, was entranced by magic as a youngster....
07/08/08 Performing Arts
With lines and lyrics that are both enduring and endearing, the Eight O'Clock Theatre brings The Fantasticks to Largo this weekend. A classic coming-of-age story, The Fantasticks launched the career of Jerry Orbach in 1960 and went on to become the world's longest running musical. It plays on countless stages throughout the world.
"Most people are familiar with The Fantasticks and maybe have even been in it in high school or local theater," said Jason Tucker, the director of the Largo production. ...
07/08/08 Human Interest
Nancy Read isn't a doctor, but Largo Medical Center patients depend on her every day. As manager of patient relations, she works to help everyone feel welcome and important. Read heads the hospital's VIP program. Begun in 2002, this cooperative effort among departments seeks to help patients and their families experience personal, patient-oriented care.
1 You are known as a patient advocate. What does that mean? I have a special group of volunteers that go visit patients and welcome them to the hospital. We give them a brochure and a special phone number to call if they need anything. We want our patients and their families to be happy.
2 What kinds of requests do you receive? It is often small things, like a newspaper or magazine for people who have come to the hospital without money to buy them or don't have any family here to bring it to them. I have a basket of items such as shampoo, toothpaste, denture cleaner and even hearing aid batteries. Sometimes I stop on the way home to pick up a small thing someone requests that I don't have in the basket. Other times nurses will refer a problem to me if a family is not happy with something.
3 What kinds of problems might be referred? Emergencies happen and scheduled procedures get pushed back and there might be a lengthy delay. I might need to find answers and explain what is going on. People are not always happy, but at least they know. It is the not knowing that makes people frustrated and sometimes angry. I often get calls to please visit with someone. Just being there to comfort people when they are alone. I visit patients every day. I feel you need to do whatever you can to help people who are sick and their families, too.
4 What other services might you perform? I am a notary and am often asked to notarize documents. I locate hairdressers and barbers to come in for people who have been hospitalized for a long time. Occasionally we get someone's clothes washed or provide clothing for them to go home in. The nurses call me if a patient is having a birthday or anniversary. We bring cake to the room with balloons and the nurses sing. We had a patient who turned 100 while here. I got the CEO and about eight of us went to her room with cake, balloons, a card and we sang to her. She was thrilled. She was alert and amazing for 100 years old.
5 You seem to have a passion for this job. What makes it special? If you like people and you want to help, you get great satisfaction. I have a wonderful job. It is rewarding.
LaRita Jacobs, Times staff writer ...
The 2.5 acres behind PSI Xtreme Sports on Ulmerton Road is a playground for teens and adults.
The field lures hundreds of thrill-seekers from around the Tampa Bay area eager to test their skills in a game of paintball or the lesser-known sport of airsoft.
"We cater to the recreational player," said Tori Blute, PSI's owner. "Most people don't realize they can play paintball and airsoft right here in the city. They think they have to go out to the woods."...
06/28/08 Human Interest
One of the longest serving members of Largo High School's Band of Gold is retiring. After more than four decades of volunteering as a roadie, Gatorade guy, unofficial counselor, mentor, stand-in parent, concessionaire and all-round helper, Howard Taylor, 88, is stepping down. He says he'll keep coming to the Packer football games, but now he'll be able to cheer without being distracted by other duties. Chances are, he will miss the band members and they him. Story and photos, Pages 8-10
He's outlasted six band directors and four principals and attended 316 high school football games. Now, after more than 40 years of volunteering with Largo High School's Band of Gold (BOG), Howard Taylor is retiring....