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Hernando County's Harry Wilson enjoys a life of learning

Harry Wilson is the chief GED examiner for the Adult Education program at Nature Coast Technical High School in Hernando County.

RON THOMPSON | Times

Harry Wilson is the chief GED examiner for the Adult Education program at Nature Coast Technical High School in Hernando County.

How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

We moved to Hernando County in 1981 for one year. At that time, I had just had a massive heart attack and took a one-year sabbatical leave from my teaching position in Pennsylvania to recuperate in Florida. I had relatives living in Pinellas County, so moving to Hernando was a good fit for us. My wife was hired to teach in Brooksville. At the end of that year, I returned to Pennsylvania to fulfill my requirement of teaching another year.

We never got Hernando out of our system. After a year back in Pennsylvania, I received a call from Dan McIntyre, offering me a position teaching science at the old West Hernando Middle School. We rented a home, and four years later, in 1986, we built our dream home.

I was born in McKeesport, Pa., and lived in Elizabeth, Pa. I was the oldest of six children. I taught in the Elizabeth Forward School District for 13 years before suffering my heart attack and moving to Florida.

Who are the members of your family?

My wife and best friend is Susan Wilson. She is the assistant principal at Eastside Elementary School. We met in college and have been married for 39 years. We have a daughter who is a physical education teacher in Pasco County, and a son who is a senior research chemist for Solvay Pharmaceuticals in Chicago. Our daughter and her husband have given us two wonderful grandchildren.

Tell us about your career.

In addition to teaching, I also served as football and wrestling coach at various levels from junior high to high school. In 1986, I gave up coaching to build our home and did much of the work myself, along with my family.

I have been the adult education coordinator for Hernando County schools for the past 21 years. The position was initially developed to combine two jobs — adult education coordinator and athletic director at Springstead High School — and I served as athletic director for two years. This was ideal for me since my daughter and son were both active in sports at Springstead.

When Nature Coast Technical High School opened five years ago, we needed to provide adult education programs there, but the state didn't provide additional funding to do so. I decided to move the community education program, the GED program and the adult high school program to the new school, and in turn revamp what we offered at the other high schools.

About 41/2 years ago, I was named chief GED examiner. Two years ago, our Adult Education Center was recognized and designated a "model GED testing center" by the state of Florida. At the time, only eight testing centers in the state were recognized. Our dedicated staff made this award possible.

What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

My activities are mostly centered around work and the programs we offer through adult ed. Since our classes are basically run in the afternoons and evenings, it leaves little time for anything else.

There was a time when I was involved with many organizations. I was at the initial meeting of the Hernando County Habitat for Humanity affiliate and served on the board for several years. I belong to the Hernando Sportsman Club and enjoy target shooting. I support Jericho Road Ministries and hope to become more active with their organization. I also belong to the John Brown Woodcarvers Group that meets at Faith Evangelical Free Church on Freeport Drive. I truly enjoy the fellowship at the center.

Do you have any special hobbies?

I have always wanted to carve signs. Not just any signs, but the kind of signs woodcarvers work on in Mystic Seaport (in Conneticut) or Scituate Harbor (in Massachusetts). I was influenced greatly by my father-in-law, Paul Popovich, who was instrumental in getting me started with woodcarving. I have carved for five or six years now and have made many hand-carved signs with chip-carved detail. I began making chip-carved boxes after my father-in-law gave my son a World War II German Luger handgun, and I wanted to make something nice for him to place the gun in. Since then, I have made several for family and friends. When I retire, I plan to carve and travel.

My wife and I have been fortunate enough to have traveled to Europe five times, and we hope to return for an extended stay for our 40th anniversary. We also love to travel in the states and plan to do extensive traveling when we retire. I also love to cook and bake my own bread, and have enjoyed cooking for the adult education staff over the years. I also collect oldies and have a collection of more than 550 records (45s), many of which are the Motown sound. I think I have every record ever recorded by Marvin Gaye and the Marvelettes.

What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

I like to pack a picnic lunch and hit the bike trails of Hernando County. We enjoy dining out and have hit almost every restaurant in town, although Pit Boss Bar-B-Q still seems to be the place I frequent the most. We also enjoy spending time with friends, especially the ones I work with.

What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

I have been wishing and hoping for either a Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstore. I love the arts and appreciate the talent we have here. With our unique geographical location, I would love to see a massive venue built in Hernando County like the Lakeland Civic Center. That would put us on the map and bring additional cultural events to our county.

Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

I designed and constructed the Town Center, a series of storefronts and buildings for the MicroSociety at Chocachatti Elementary School. It took me an entire year to complete the buildings in my garage. I did it because I really believe in the MicroSociety concept and also because my wife was the assistant principal and, well, she made me do it!

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at jhayes@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1438.

Hernando County's Harry Wilson enjoys a life of learning 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 1:07pm]

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