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It took only one person to stop for a stricken man

Tampa columnisthooper
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© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 22, 2001

Attorney Nick Martinez not only saved a man's life last week, but he also saved Tampa's reputation as a friendly place.

Martinez was out for a morning bike ride on Bayshore Boulevard last Thursday when he happened upon a man sprawled out on the sidewalk, clutching his chest with one hand and reaching up with his other. Steve Russell, a 51-year-old visiting businessman from Indianapolis, told Martinez he thought he was having a heart attack.

Martinez, who insisted a four-letter word beginning with "h" and ending in "o" not be used in this account, called 911.

Thinking of how his wife would feel if he had suffered a heart attack in another city, Martinez quickly became a reassuring voice for Steve's wife, Barbara Russell. He called her in Indianapolis and provided information as paramedics took Steve to Tampa General. He stayed in contact with Mrs. Russell throughout the day.

Certainly the Russells are grateful, but they should not be alone. The city owes Martinez a debt because he stopped when others chose not to. That's right. Steve Russell said several cyclists, joggers and skaters whizzed by before Martinez came along.

Maybe cynicism had people thinking it was a gag. Maybe Russell was mistaken for a homeless person, although with a Nike outfit and new running shoes, that seems unlikely.

"I can kind of understand," Russell said. "But all it takes is one person to stop, and I'm extremely grateful one did."

It's difficult to say what's more remarkable: Martinez's kindness or Russell's graciousness. Martinez said far too much has been made of the situation, while Russell said he has no bitterness toward those who kept going. He's going to follow through with his plans to move his relocation business to Tampa.

I'm just glad we had one ambassador out for a morning ride on Bayshore.

* * *

I'm all about togetherness, and so are the Downtown Corps and the Tampa Area Minority Professional Association.

The resurgent Downtown Corps partnered with Florida 2012 for a happy hour gathering at the Olympic bid office Thursday. An offshoot of the Downtown Partnership, the corps had built a membership of more than 300 by the mid-1990s but lost steam about three years ago. Downtown Corps interim president Angela Trelease, a project manager for Interarch Design, said the revival began in November and has gone well.

T.A.M.P.A. also has high hopes. It had its second happy hour at Sacks Seafood House on Kennedy on Thursday evening. The group formed just a few months ago after Tamara Ellerbie, Dionna Smith-Bratton and Miguel Rada, three employees at Technisource, decided the city needed a group to bring together minorities for networking, professional education, political action and community service.

* * *

"Today' show meteorologist Janice Huff became completely smitten with a 7-month-old black lab in the audience outside Rockefeller Plaza Wednesday morning. The dog got some major air time, and so did his owner: Tampa attorney Steve Crawford.

* * *

Court (kort) vt. to try to win the favor of by attention or flattery; to try to win the affections or love of; to behave so as to invite or incur .

I guess Hillsborough Circuit Judge Robert Bonanno has added a whole new meaning to the word "courthouse."

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or

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