How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?
I moved from Philadelphia in 1993 and have lived in Spring Hill since that time. In early winter of 1995, I met my wife, Vicki, at Stage West Community Playhouse, and we married within the next six months. At present, Vicki and I are living with her parents, Paul and Phyllis Heltunen; their cat, Musti, and our precious cocker spaniel, Casey Lynn the Girl.
What are the members of your family?
My two sons from a previous marriage have given me four granddaughters, a 6-year-old great-granddaughter and a newly born great-grandson named Reznor. I have two sisters who live in New Jersey, as well as my aunt Kathleen. I have numerous other relatives living in South Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
Vicki comes from a very large family, and we recently attended a Heltunen family reunion in the upper peninsula of Michigan.
Tell us about your career.
I enlisted in the Marine Corps immediately after graduating from high school — too late for the Korean conflict — and served for three years before my honorable discharge in 1960. Shortly thereafter, I was accepted into the Philadelphia Police Academy and began a nearly 30-year career in law enforcement. I was a patrolman for five years, then patrol sergeant for three more years, followed by 12 years as a lieutenant in the investigative field.
I served my final 10 years at the rank of captain, at various times commanding juvenile investigations, a patrol district and finally a detective field division. During that period, I attended the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va., and graduated with the 130th Session in 1982.
After my retirement from the Police Department in December 1989, I traveled extensively throughout Europe and spent a number of months living along the western shores of Ireland.
What kinds of activities are you involved in now?
Two of my most rewarding endeavors are working with the music ministry at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church on Mariner Boulevard in Spring Hill and my membership with the Stage West Community Playhouse on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill.
Tell me more about those activities.
At St. Frances, I serve as a cantor and a member of the choir. And in recent years, I directed two shows — The Sound of Music and Nunsense — as fundraisers for our music ministry.
With Stage West, I have been involved in every aspect of backstage work, including stage hand, property manager, construction/lighting/sound and many other facets of the theater, besides performing on stage and directing.
I am currently a member of the cast for the production of 1776 being presented in November. The show is from the book of the same name by Peter Stone, with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards.
It is a story of how, in our struggle for independence, the founding fathers convened a Continental Congress in Philadelphia, at which Congress and the Representatives of the 13 original colonies debated the merits and wording of the Declaration of Independence.
I have the role of John Dickinson, a representative from Pennsylvania, who is the primary antagonist of John Adams, and, as such, works equally hard to convince the other representatives to remain under the auspices of the mother country, England, and King George III.
Over the past 14 years, it has been my privilege to work with a number of outstanding performers and actors in some of the best shows ever produced, including, On Golden Pond; Hello, Dolly!; Fiddler on the Roof; Victor/Victoria (for which I won a HAMI award for best actor); and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (for which I won a HAMI award for best director).
These experiences have provided me with a tremendous opportunity to meet and work beside some of the most talented people in our community, including Tom Russell, Madeline Child, Saul Leibner and the late Irv Clark.
I have appeared at a number of theater venues along the Gulf Coast and can honestly say that I've never had an unpleasant experience in the world of acting. Some sorrowful moments, true, but always something positive to go along with the pain.
Do you have any special hobbies?
Although I play rather poorly, I am an avid golfer at the Oak Hill Golf Course in Spring Hill, and I also enjoy playing chess and poker.
What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?
Besides attending church and working with the theater, my wife and I enjoy attending the performances of the Hernando Symphony Orchestra.
What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?
I've seen a tremendous population growth in the 15 years since I arrived in Spring Hill, and, if I had my say, more attention needs to be placed on road infrastructure as it pertains to traffic safety (better lighting and speed limits on smaller roads, and more traffic controls on the major throughways).
Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.
Well, for one thing, I like chocolate ice cream! And, for another, I have a burning desire to revisit Ireland and show my wife the wonders of the land that I claim for my heritage.
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.