How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I moved to the Spring Lake area in April 1999. Previously, I lived in Seminole and St. Petersburg. I moved to Florida in 1978 from Valley Stream, Long Island, N.Y.
Who are the members of your family?
First, my husband, Robert. I have two daughters: Laura James, who lives in Holiday with her husband and son; and Karen Sanchez who lives in Seminole with her daughter.
We also have a dog named Suzie and two cats: Thomas and Sweet Pea.
Tell us about your career.
I started my career on Wall Street working for Chemical Bank New York Trust Co. as secretary to the vice president of the trust department (1960-63). In 1963, I started working for the Central Intelligence Agency and left in 1978 when we moved to Florida.
From 1978 to 1995, I was the executive vice president of All Advertising Associates of St. Petersburg. In 1995, I retired and traveled for a few months. Then I opened Ele Antiques in Seminole. At the time, I was also working for the First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg and the district office in Leesburg and Gainesville.
In 1999, I married Robert and we moved to Brooksville, where I became a Realtor and worked for ReMax Spirit of Brooksville. In October 2007, I went to work for Jericho Road Ministries, and today I am the assistant manger at their Ridge Manor thrift store on Cortez Boulevard. This past January, I was nominated as Employee of the Month at the thrift store.
What kinds of other activities are you involved in now?
I am a lector at St. Anthony Catholic Church in Brooksville, and I am a member of the advisory council at Notre Dame Catholic School in Spring Hill.
Previously, I served a two-year term as president of the St. Anthony Church Council and was also on the stewardship committee.
Do you have any special hobbies?
I love ballroom dancing. In the late 1980s, I won the top student award in the Florida State Championship and gold and silver medals at the United States Ballroom Championship, but I still love to dance.
I've been playing the piano since the age of 9. I love art and once took art lessons in Deruta, Italy, and I was the president of the St. Petersburg Opera Guild.
I love to travel. I have traveled extensively throughout Europe and the United States, and visited Hong Kong and Bangkok on two separate occasions.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
I love the Chinsegut Nature Center, with all the trails and lectures. Also the Civil War re-enactments at the Sand Hill Scout Reservation, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, the Hernando County Fair, the bluegrass festival at Sertoma Youth Ranch, the Hernando Performing Arts performances and the bandshell concerts.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
Helping the homeless by securing more shelters for them and getting them into the workforce by providing job training.
More upscale restaurants and shops, thereby attracting the Tampa workforce as a bedroom community. Support and encourage developments such as Southern Hills and the upcoming Hickory Hill. I would like to see better support by the community in our private schools and country clubs.
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
I was a friend of Liberace. When he appeared at Bayfront Center in St. Petersburg, I would always have a party at my home for him after the concert, inviting family, friends and business clients to my home to meet him.
I traveled to Monte Carlo with him and watched him perform for royalty. I was a guest at his homes in Palm Springs, Las Vegas and the Hollywood Hills. I made ceramics for him to give as gifts to his friends and met many famous people through my association with him. I was also invited to his memorial service in Palm Springs.
I have appeared on television and have had several articles written about me due to our relationship. I have several of his costumes and some furniture and china that belonged to him.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1438.