Piper Castillo, Times Staff Writer

Piper Castillo

Piper Castillo grew up in Ft. Lauderdale and received her English degree from Florida Atlantic University. As a community news reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, she covers Oldsmar and Palm Harbor. She also writes the "Nightstand" column for the Sunday book pages and thinks the only thing better than a good read is a day in the sun with her family.

Phone: (727) 445-4163

E-mail: pcastillo@tampabay.com

  1. A son preserves history through his father's iconic photos

    Human Interest


    In the mid 1980s, retired Navy Cmdr. Gerald "Jerry'' Pulley began mailing boxes filled with pictures to his son, Donn Pulley.

    There were photos of Jerry with Adm. Richard Byrd during Byrd's survey of the South Pacific islands in 1943. Pictures taken onboard the USS Missouri during the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender with Gen. Douglas MacArthur in September 1945. Photos shot by Navy pilots on reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962....

    WITH ADMIRAL BYRD: Gerald Pulley, right, stands next to an aerial reconnaissance plane during Adm. Richard Byrd’s mission to map certain areas of the South Pacific islands in 1943.
  2. What's Todd Snider reading?



    Todd Snider

    Snider, 47, known in equal parts for his silly onstage banter and his Americana-style songs like Alright Guy and Beer Run, will visit Skipper's Smokehouse on Tuesday. He'll present "A Very Special Multimedia Evening With Todd Snider,'' which will include a preview of East Nashville Tonight, a film that originally was intended to be a documentary on Snider but turned into what has been best described as a "stoner musical.'' Snider will also read from his new book, I Never Met a Story I Didn't Like (Mostly True Tall Tales), answer questions and take song requests. The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Visit wmnf.org/events....

  3. Palm Harbor Library is saving for a rainy day

    Local Government

    PALM HARBOR — Gene Coppola became the director of the Palm Harbor Library about 14 years ago, and he remembers his early days with fondness. There were enthusiastic, welcoming employees, eager library patrons and plenty of community support.

    However, he also recalls a particular feeling.

    "It was a feeling like being in a Marx Brothers routine,'' he said. "Our roof leaked, and when it would rain, we'd literally run around with about seven buckets to catch the water. It was crazy, but we finally were able to replace the roof and the a.c. units in 2002.''...

    In 2009, Palm Harbor Library reopened with a new teen room, part of a $1.4 million renovation. Funds are being raised for capital projects like the roof, carpeting and paint.
  4. What's Richard Blanco reading?



    Richard Blanco

    In honor of Poetry Month, we caught up with Blanco, who, when he served as inaugural poet at President Barack Obama's second inauguration in 2013, went down in history as the youngest, the first Latino, the first immigrant and the first openly gay writer to hold the honor. Blanco, 46, was born in Madrid as the son of Cuban exiles who moved to the United States while he was a baby. He earned his bachelor's degree in civil engineering and a master's degree in creative writing from Florida International University. In November, he released his first book of prose, For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey, in which he reflects on his understanding of what it means to be an American and his life-changing role as a public voice....

  5. Oldsmar Flea Market owner sues former managers

    Human Interest

    OLDSMAR — Ola Mae "Babe'' Wright, a former Oldsmar City Council member, and Richard Ferkich are both well known in the city for establishing the sprawling Oldsmar Flea Market.

    Their relationship goes back more than 30 years. With the help of Wright's real estate business, Big Bay Realty, Ferkich purchased the land at the southwest corner of Race Track and Tampa roads in 1979. Within a year, he opened the Oldsmar Flea Market. Wright was named the market's manager and held that post until last year....

    The Oldsmar Flea Market on Race Track Road has been in operation since around 1980. Its owner and managers are now enmeshed in lawsuits over financial arrangements.
  6. Firefighters, Oldsmar still at impasse on pension issue

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — City negotiators and the union representing the city's rank-and-file firefighters appeared before a special magistrate last week in an attempt to resolve their impasse over a new fire union contract.

    Pay raises and retirement benefits are the two sticking points.

    At the hearing, the sides were able to agree on the raise issue: Firefighters will get merit raises of 2, 2.5 and 3 percent over the next three years....

  7. What's Phil Madeira reading?



    Phil Madeira

    For the last few years, Madeira, 61, has spent a lot of his time on the road playing accordion and guitar for Emmylou Harris. As a singer-songwriter, he has had his work recorded by Alison Krauss, Bruce Hornsby and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Madeira, a Southern Evangelical by birth who has gone on to experience many different faith and religion practices, recently released his first book, God on the Rocks: Distilling Religion, Savoring Faith. Madeira will be visiting the Tampa Bay area, performing at the Safety Harbor Music Festival Thursday through Saturday as well as holding a book signing and acoustic set at Inkwood Books on Saturday. (See Book Talk, Page 7L)...

  8. Oldsmar will get a Thorntons and redeveloped shopping center

    Economic Development

    OLDSMAR — Joe Osmani and his wife, Susan, chose to open Joe's Produce Market at the Forest Lakes Village Center because they knew it would get a lot of business in the Tampa Road corridor.

    "It's very busy here,'' Osmani said. "Business is good. We're selling lots of Plant City strawberries and lots of tomatoes, lots of pretty much everything.''

    By the end of this year, business at the center, on the southeast corner of Forest Lakes Boulevard and Tampa Road, could get even busier....

    Viola Vitale leaves the produce market Wednesday. The Thorntons must tone down its color scheme and add design details.
  9. What's Sophie Nélisse reading?



    Sophie Nélisse

    Nélisse, a French Canadian, took on the role of Liesel Meminger in 2013's The Book Thief, a movie adaptation of Markus Zusak's bestselling 2006 novel. When Liesel was sent to live with foster parents (played by Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson) in World War II Germany, she was taunted by her classmates for not knowing how to read. However, with the help of her adoptive father and Max (Ben Schnetzer), a Jewish refugee, Liesel not only begins to read but falls in love with books, eventually becoming the "Book Thief" and saving books from Nazi destruction. We caught up with Nélisse, who turns 14 on Thursday, by phone recently. When asked if she considers herself a bookworm, Nélisse replied, "Well, I do read a lot. Most of my friends are boys and most boys hate reading, so I do read more than those friends, but then some of my other friends are smart and they read almost too much, well not too much, let's just say more than average.''...

  10. Tattoo artist not welcome in Oldsmar redevelopment district

    Economic Development

    OLDSMAR — Since moving to Oldsmar about a year ago, Jillian Langley Santiago has fallen in love with the city, "especially the friendly atmosphere in and around the library,'' she said. "I take my kids there at least once a week.''

    And so when Langley Santiago, a tattoo artist, decided to open a tattoo shop, she chose to lease a storefront on St. Petersburg Drive E next to the Moose Lodge and across from the library....

    Jillian Langley Santiago rented store space in downtown Oldsmar that she wants to open as a tattoo parlor. But the store is in the Town Center Commercial Neighborhood District, where the city said rules specifically forbid tattoo shops.
  11. What's Eamon Loingsigh reading?



    Eamong Loingsigh

    For St. Patrick's Day, Eamon Loingsigh, 43, will be celebrating the release of Light of the Diddicoy. His novel introduces the reader to Liam Garrity, who at age 14 travels from Ireland to America on the eve of the 1916 Easter Rising. Garrity gets caught up with the White Hand Gang that operated along the Brooklyn waterfront. Loingsigh, whose real name is Alex Lynch, is a University of South Florida graduate who lives in St. Petersburg....

  12. Oldsmar plaza redevelopment will bring Aldi, Ross stores

    Economic Development

    OLDSMAR — Corey Newman frequently walks from her apartment to the Walmart on Tampa Road, pushing her toddler, Sky, in a stroller. On a recent Friday, she checked out the construction going on at Forest Lakes Plaza.

    "I think my life will change drastically once the new shopping center is done,'' said Newman, 38.

    This fall an Aldi grocery store and a Ross Dress for Less are expected to open as the new anchor tenants at the center, located on the northwest corner of Tampa Road and Forest Lakes Boulevard. It has been more than eight years since the last anchor, Winn Dixie, closed its doors....

    Construction is under way at Forest Lakes Plaza. “Now that we’re here we have realized how busy Oldsmar is,” says new tenant Kristen Mortara of Four Monkeys Candy Connection.
  13. Jim Ronecker will return to Oldsmar council

    Local Government

    OLDSMAR — Last month, former Mayor Jim Ronecker said he didn't want to be considered to fill the vacant seat on the City Council created by the death of Janice Miller on Feb. 8.

    But the City Council wouldn't take no for an answer.

    So on March 18, Ronecker, 49, will be sworn in to serve until a special city election next March.

    The council had considered two potential appointees: Ronecker and Eric Seidel, who was a council member from 2007 to 2009. In addition to being longtime city residents, both met two other requirements for the job: council experience and no aspirations to seek the seat in the special election. Both men volunteered their services....

  14. What's Susan Latvala reading?



    Susan Latvala

    Latvala has been a political fixture in the bay area, serving as a Pinellas County commissioner since 2000. Latvala was also a member of the Pinellas County School Board from 1992 to 2000. However, the moderate Republican from Palm Harbor recently announced she will not run for re-election and plans to retire from politics.

    What's on your nightstand?...

  15. Pinellas commissioners cite overlay plan in rejecting East Lake ALF

    Local Government

    EAST LAKE — At least the neighbors can agree on this: The East Lake Tarpon Community Overlay did its job.

    The overlay, which was created in 2012, defines the unincorporated community as being ". . . known for its quiet, scenic neighborhoods of unique residential communities and limited small businesses providing a safe and fun place to grow up.'' Pinellas County commissioners are required to follow its guidelines when making planning and land use decisions....