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Television reporter finds haven in Tampa real estate

Lance Williams, 48, will be leaving WFLA-Ch.8 for Keller Williams Realty in April.

By ELIZABETH BETTENDORF
Published February 15, 2005


A Valentine's story for you.

About a guy who loves the idea of home.

And family.

About a television reporter, who stared down death and came back to savor life again. Lance Williams, a reporter for WFLA-Ch. 8, was diagnosed in 2000 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. He's beating it thanks to a miracle drug and donated bone marrow from a young woman in Lewisburg, Tenn.

Williams announced his resignation at Channel 8 in January. He's leaving to sell real estate, specifically to partner with another cancer survivor, Sue Paskert, under the umbrella of Tampa Bay's longtime Keller Williams Realty, no relation to Lance.

It's not a surprise that Williams leaves the news biz for the world of real estate. His split-level South Tampa home, whose vintage he jokingly refers to as "Brady Bunch," is a homage to Williams' and his wife, Amy's, love of antiques, art, architecture and collecting.

A Barcelona chair mixes with a collection of traditional French chairs and Regency love seats; a painting by the late, great Florida landscape painter Beanie Backus hangs in the living room.

The painting of the Adams Ranch in St. Lucie County was a going-away gift many years ago from Backus, who knew Williams when he was a reporter living in Fort Pierce. Upstairs is a painting by artist Homer Johnson that the Williamses picked up at a local auction for $32.

Aubusson and Oriental rugs cover the floors. A small collection of folk art hangs in the kitchen, and stacks of architecture books beckon from every surface.

Everywhere you turn, something to touch, study, think about.

Williams and his wife, soul mates in life and collecting, cannot help themselves when they see furniture in a trash pile or at an estate auction. They have a tendency to cart things home and create a living still life with their treasures.

"Truly home is everything to us," Williams says. "It's where we entertain friends, play and pray as a family, disagree and make up. We'd be lost without our haven."

A haven.

That's what most people want, Williams says: "You know where you're supposed to live."

Exactly.

When he first thought about selling real estate for a living - something he did years ago in Miami to raise money for graduate school at Northwestern - he asked Paskert her advice. The two were new friends, brought together by mutual friends and a shared bond of surviving illness.

They both thought about it for a while and decided to marshal forces.

Williams, now 48, was ready to let go of journalism. He loved his co-workers for their daily prayer sessions when he was sick; for cooking hot meals for Amy and his two children, Palmer, 8, and Olivia, 4; and for building a pool fence in his yard when he was too weak to get out of bed.

He cries when he thinks about leaving them.

It's hard not to.

He's giving up job security for the unknown.

Journalism has been very good to him, he says.

But he's ready to go.

"While doing it (journalism), it absolutely consumed me. I would walk out of the house every day wondering if I could be the absolute best I could be. It's a wonderful feeling to talk to a stranger, and, if you're sincere, he or she will tell you their deepest thoughts and fears," he explains. "But it's also stressful to walk into strangers' lives every day and know the most intimate things about them. After 23 years, I didn't want to wake up and do another story about a mom who died on the Bayshore or a tornado that destroyed 20 homes."

His last day will be April 8.

Williams and Paskert's focus will be selling residential real estate in South Tampa, a place they both draw strength from. He can't wait.

"For me, the goal will no longer be what story I did today, but rather, what I did wrong, what I did right and what I can do better tomorrow," Williams says. "It's a huge risk, but I feel so much confidence, peace and excitement."

[Last modified February 15, 2005, 01:15:09]


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