Paul de la Garza, a reporter for the St. Petersburg Times and a former staffer for The Associated Press, has died. He was 44.
De la Garza, who had survived a heart attack two years ago, collapsed at his home about 10 a.m. Sunday after complaining of chest pains, the newspaper reported in a story published Monday. He died later at Tampa General hospital.
“This is a heartbreaking loss. He really went after stories because they would make a difference in the lives of good-hearted folks,” said Paul Tash, the Times’ editor, chairman and CEO. “He had so much to offer both as a father and husband and also as a reporter.”
De la Garza was a native of Port Isabel, Texas. He was an AP intern in Houston during the summer of 1984, and began working in the Chicago bureau in 1985 after graduating from the University of Texas.
In 1987, he was named the AP’s correspondent in Carbondale, Ill., where he stayed for two years. He also worked in the news cooperative’s Newark, N.J., bureau.
He started at the Times in 1992. He covered police news, wrote a column and helped edit the Tampa section. He left the paper in 1994 for the Chicago Tribune, where he spent six years as a reporter and bureau chief for Mexico City. He returned to the Times in 2000.
He returned to Florida partly because he and his wife wanted a more stable environment for the two orphans they adopted in Mexico City. Monica is now 12, and Carlos is 11.
“Paul the journalist was very different than Paul, the regular guy,” said Sandra Gadsden, the Neighborhood Times editor. “The journalist was a stickler for detail. He would hang on every sentence. Paul the man was just fun-loving laid-back guy.”
De la Garza also was a cancer survivor who endured extensive treatments for Hodgkin’s disease after being diagnosed in 2000.
Besides his children, he is survived by his wife, Georgia; mother, Jesusa de la Garza, and sister, Via Camacho, both of Austin, Texas; and brothers Eduardo, of Houston, and Alberto, of Galveston, Texas.