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Seizing the day even late in life

When Jack Weldon _ a doer all his life _ moved into a retirement home last year, he was outraged to find there was nothing much going on for people of the male persuasion.

"There was plenty for women, who were the big majority," said Weldon, 84. "But the only organized thing for men was a Friday breakfast."

Sitting in his wheelchair at North Shore Senior Adult Community in St. Petersburg, Weldon glowers at the memory. "Nothing happened at that breakfast. Not one thing. The guys just ate and left."

This was intolerable passivity for a man who stopped playing tennis in his late-70s only because he was losing his sight.

"Well, there was something else. The club where I played raised the dues. So I said the hell with it and quit."

At the retirement home, several years later, the first thing Weldon did was get the breakfast club on its feet. He named a committee, started organizing day trips and found important speakers for the breakfasts.

"The President of Coe College in Iowa," he said, "and Corinne Freeman, who used to be mayor of this town."

He then helped start a men's club and became its president. "We call ourselves the North Shoremen," he said, adding a little mysteriously, "sort of like longshoremen."

They are a distinguished group, Weldon said. They number a dozen or so. Their average age is 85.6, and they include men who were business owners, CEOs, executives and professional musicians.

"Harry Cummins is 99 and still plays the trumpet," Weldon said. "I heard him last week and told him, "Harry, you still have a lip.' "

Weldon grew up in New York City and Roanoke, Va. In the 1920s, he was a child singer on radio.

"I got started on NBC by Joe White, the Silver-Masked Tenor," Weldon said, expecting the Silver-Masked one's name to strike a familiar chord.

Weldon became an executive in radio. Locally, he was sales manager for WSUN for years, then switched to Channel 10 on TV.

"I made the part of television you don't like: the commercials," he said. "I still do some of that on a part-time basis."

At one time, he had his own ad agency. "There were years when I was the voice of Haslam's Book Store."

His wife was Ann Weldon, a veteran reporter for the Evening Independent, which merged with the Times. The couple had two children.

Sadly, there are many melancholy elderly people in the world. Weldon heard one elderly man say, "That airplane that went down off Long Island, I wish I'd been on that airplane."

But that is untypical of the North Shoremen. "The most important thing about us is we're not through, we haven't quit," Weldon said. "We're still an interested, functioning part of the world."