Category Archives: Joe

MY EIGHTH DECADE Pt. 3 1987-1997




January 3, 1997

This storied decade began auspiciously with the celebration of our 55th Wedding Anniversary.  All of the attendees at our 50th, made their re-appearance in Florida.  We combined the wedding party with my eightieth birthday and we celebrated on Sunday, February 15 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Clearwater, Beach, Florida. We had had our 40th Anniversary at the Holiday Inn in 1982, before the change in name to the DoubleTree. My daughter Bonnie, Lee her husband, and daughters attended as did my son Bill, and his wife. It was a special event in that I was recuperating from my stroke in October 1996, I had some visages of weakness in my right leg and arm. Luckily, with extensive physical therapy, I had recovered normal usage of my arm and leg and I have continued my daily exercise regimen.

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Figures #12.36 and Figure #12.37 Celebrating and Feel Like Dancin’

On June 6, Thelma and I made a short visit to Maryland to attend graduation ceremonies of Diana was graduating from Sherwood high school in Olney, Maryland; a suburb of Washington, D.C. The celebration party was lots of fun, with members of the family attending from New Jersey, Florida and New York. The highlight of the activities was a graduation ceremony at Constitution Hall, the class of all the elegant buildings in Washington, DC. The only occurrence that marred the day was a near-calamity that we barely avoided. As we waited outside the parking garage, I was sort of surrounded by three men, one of the them, very well-dressed, in a wheelchair. One of the men dropped a key, and I, like a good Samaritan bent over to help I saw him retrieve the key, but the other men continue to look for the key. I saw there were no keys on the floor and I grew suspicious. I had heard of such instances, with the attention of the victim, was diverted by noises in conversation. I put my hand to my back wallet pocket, and I felt the hand of the man in the wheelchair, then quickly withdrawn. Luckily, he had only unbuttoned the back pocket but he hadn’t gotten my wallet. The three men disappeared quickly, and we did not impede their departure, happily that no one was hurt. It all took only about three minutes; my wife saw all this happening was nearby. She had heard the men saying, “lift up your foot”. She thought I was having trouble because of my stroke. This was a close encounter, both figuratively and literally. It was an interesting enough story that I sent it to one of the popular columnists at the Washington Post, Bob Levey. He even acknowledged my letter and sent a response note; included below

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Figure #12.38 Letter to Bob Levy, Washington Post   Figure #12.39 Congratulatory note

There were many miracles of this century – the supersonic airplanes, radio, HD television, man on the moon, etc. on Saturday, July 5, NASA announced and on Sunday, July 6, the headlines in the St. Petersburg Times read that “scientists marvel at photos from Mars”. Although people were aware that NASA had launched a Mars project, the amazement of the landing was exceeded only by the amazing photos and information being received from the Memorial station by remote control.

The Pathfinder, the Mars lander, and the vehicle (Rover) leaving the lander (by remote control from Earth) is named “Sojourner”. The sojourner is a roving vehicle, weighing 23 pounds. In the few short hours of operation it has returned clear color photographs to words, as well as accessing the chemical composition of anything it finds. It was noted that the Mars Pathfinder project was being renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial station in honor of the famed astronomer who died in December 1996.

Investing was one of the intriguing activities that I dabbled in. These are serious games and the consequences are life-threatening. The highs and lows are not manageable, Bernard Baruch, the most respected financier and presidential advisor of the 1940s said you can outwit the market with a quote from the book. The low-income people don’t have the money to “play the market”. They will think that the rest of the upper income people are “raking” in the money – in 1987 and 92, the middle-income people lost fortunes in the stock market. I kept some of his guidelines handy. Here were a few:


Figure #12.40 “Some words to invest by”

1. Only buy stocks you have researched.
2. When the technical pattern conforms with fundamental judgment.
3. Sell quickly if the stock does not act as anticipated.
4. Try not to be overly bullish or bearish.
5. Do not over trade.
Baruch’s main approach that I kept as a constant: Remember long-term (connotations “savings”)


Our Social Security should not be subject to the vagaries of the stock market. What happened to the 401(k)s held by the officers and employees of Enron world company, other corporations – airlines, etc.

The last three excerpts from the blog before the “book” is printed will reference discussions about topics that’s near and dear to my heart; living among ourselves; fighting against prejudice and fanaticism. And one in particular laying bare the roots of Nazi horror and Genocide in general. This is just a few small portion of the dozens and dozens of documents and papers I have amassed dealing with the Holocaust in which my son picked up the gauntlet and carried the torch, In the book: “Light: Courage and Hope.”

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Figure #12.41 Elie Wiesel Speaking and program Eckerd College, St. Petersburg

On Thursday, November 21, 1991 we had the privilege of hearing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel speak at Eckerd College as part of their Distinguished Speaker Series.

“How is it that one Jew was caught and another not? How is it that Jackie and I survived, while others of our age were sent to their deaths? Were they not as good, or as worthy, as me; They certainly were. Then what is the answer? As a rule, the why’s and wherefores of what had befallen us remains open questions.  One may not venture answers to such difficult questions. One may only relate…”

Jackito Handeli 115003 meet Haim Matalon 9102324. Numbers tattooed on victim’s arm for identification at the Concentration Camps.

Talking about fate- how did I, a cousin to 4 other first cousins of the Holocaust, emerge from this maelstrom of war? By a stroke of fate, my parents migrated from Salonica in 1916. They arrived in New York Harbor on September 16th, 1916, the Ships manifest is found in Chapter 1.


Figure #12.42  50 Years Ago; the Holocaust Remembered

A 50 years Holocaust Chronology of the end of the camps, January – February 1945


Figure #12.43  Story about the Anne Frank Legacy.

How her diary became a rallying cry for the triumph-of-the-spirit. As was quoted in the article the comment by Franz Kafka often cited, “We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves.” If ever there was such a book, it is Anne Frank’s Diary.

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Figure #12.44 Tremendous Power of Hate Figure #12.45 Heart of Nazi Terror

As indicated above, from 1933 to 1945, Jews from every part of Europe and representatives of over two millennia of tradition, culture and humanity was sent to Nazi death camps and forced labor camps in the end, more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children perished (of which 1 1/4 million were children).

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Figures #12.46 Copy of the Book: “Greek Jew from Salonika Remembers” Figures #12.46 and #12.47 Letter to Publisher for a copy of the book.

What also peaked my interest was a visit by my cousin Haim, who lived in northern Israel; Haifa. In 1991 during the 1st Gulf War he and his wife Yona stayed with us for over two months. We managed to talk about his experience as a Holocaust survivor at Auschwitz and his migration to Israel after War II. I will just provide you with a sampling of the 15 page document. (**More to appear in the book).

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Figures #12.48 “Haim’s Story”


Figure #12.49  Letter to Charlie Reese

I would read Charlie Reese’s article’s on a regular basis and found them mostly timely and topical. Yet at this juncture the subject matter was more troubling on the topic that was most sensitive to me and the experiences that I had encountered during my lifetime. It was duly noted and in closing, reiterated my position: Mr. Reese, your column is your life, this letter is my life. I did follow this up with my closing sentence, “May you continue writing your column in good health.”


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Figure #12.50 Apr. 29, 1993 Letter to First Lady, Hillary Clinton and Figure #12.51 Accompanying Article on Steps to Universal Health Care

My concerns with healthcare began beating incessantly like a drum especially since we were requiring more regularly scheduled visits particularly with Thelma’s health issues. I fired off a letter to First Lady Hillary Clinton explaining senior citizen’s concerns with Medicare and with what the legislative action might be and attached an article that I thought handled the concerns well. Guess things really hadn’t changed because of the complexity of this problem as we are reeling in the muck and mire of universal healthcare today as well. Although there was a bit of hope that I felt 15 years later when I updated my request again to Mrs. Clinton who was then US Sen. Hillary Clinton from New York. Attached is the letter that was sent on April 10, 2008.


Figure #12.52 Letter sent to Sen. Hillary Clinton on Health Care Issues

Chapter 12 vignette 1


Patriotism is assured when there are patriots who we can count on. We do not need men who seek refuge as a plan to subjugate the people whom they call liberals in Sofia’s own parlance. It means that if you’re an average individual, who is Patriotic and your liberal (whatever that means), and you don’t want to be called unpatriotic, so you must say you’re not a liberal, which in turn makes you a patriot without being labeled a liberal.

This is the time that tries men’s souls. Are You a Sunshine patriot and/or a winter soldier? I’m a convert many times over – New York, Washington, D.C., and Palm Harbor, FL. I loved them all, and I feel like a citizen of the world. I’m a real New Yorker-born with an inborn Liberalism – with the basic work ethic, the regular family values. (After 75 years, I know I have them- and I never knew it even with my education fetish).

Gentlemen of the Legislature – you’re not playing politics, you’re talking budget.

What you’re doing is hamstringing the Florida education system and destroying the faith of our children in our governing representatives.

I looked at my teachers with awe.  They taught me the daily niceties of being tolerant of those around me. At age 10, when I came home from school, I realized, realized that my demeanor to my siblings had changed. – I said to myself why can’t I speak quietly to my family the way my teachers conducted themselves.  I received my early training at P.S. 115 in Brooklyn, New York. (P.S. standing for Public School).

I’m a volunteer at East Lake High School in Palm Harbor, FL. and there’s going to be a library in this area in part due to my efforts. I am there and doing that because of the warm feeling I have for the American Education System. I wasn’t an outstanding student but I had stick-to-itiveness. I attended summer school to add to my college credits. I received two degrees attending L.I. University and N.Y. University with a lot of help from my homemaker wife, built up our family unit. I used the GI Bill and owe no debts to the government. But I owe a debt of gratitude to Uncle Sam. Mr. Chiles – use Education as your keystone. No one can blame you for fighting for Education – win or lose – you are right. Your opponents used Education to cut the budget to the bone. You can use the Education budget to rescue the children – no one can fault you for being the true Education Governor.

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Figure #12.53 “I’m Eighty”          Figure #12.54 Closing remarks from my retirement talk at                                                      the Hirshhorn Museum

I asked for grace enough to listen to the tales of others pains.  Help me to endure them with patience. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains that are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them has become sweeter as the years go by.



Figure #12.55 Henny Youngman, 70 years of Laughing

The man who made famous the line, “Take my wife, Please!” I could never understand why a man would say this. I could never utter it, I would be afraid because knowing what I have, no sooner that the words came out of my mouth there would be someone there to take my precious gift.



A philosophical discourse


I always admired the great people of my times, the creative genius, artistic creators of books, music, the arts and movies. I kept track of each year some of the great people as they left this world 1997. There will be no exceptions. This year took Robert Mitchum, Lloyd Bridges, James Stewart Richard Oakley Willie J Jane, Jacques Cousteau, Stubby Kay, Burgess Meredith, Brian Keith, Red Skelton and Chris Farley just to name a few. I never spent too much time delving into the Obits but just made some mental notes and jotted them down to remember how much we owed them.


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.





At this time in my life I had a chance to really immerse myself in some of the issues of the day; Healthcare, Social Security, government ineptitude and world affairs. I had time to philosophize and get off letters to local, state and federal officials and work on these projects with impunity. But reading was one of my fondest activities. I managed to catalog many of the articles, reports, filling my cabinets and honing in on sharpening my writer’s skills. They’re were so many opportunities to send off letters and this kept me very busy.

During this stage of my life I developed a strong affinity with not mincing words and used them in my arsenal to keep officials, newspapers at bay and act as a public ward. I certainly can’t provide you with a litany of my responses and diatribes but the next few chapters there will be some good examples. I wasn’t vindictive but tried to get straight to the point. I liked to mix humanistic approaches with humoristic approaches and found writers that did the same.

One of my favorite writers that I followed was Art Buchwald from Washington. Another I enjoyed was Mike Royko from the Midwest, out of Chicago. I was saddened to learn of his passing and managed to find sort of a Requiem of some of his highlighted columns that appeared in a May 1, 1997 editorial, “Opinion” which I’d love to share. Citing two entries, the first dealing with love: On Love, Chicago Sun-Times July 30, 1981.

“Nobody’s really sure what love is. Shrinks mess around trying to define it and just make it sound more complicated than it is. Poets, as neurotic as they are, do much better job.

I’m not sure what it is myself, except that it leaves you breathless, makes everything else seem unimportant and can cause you ecstasy, misery, and drive you crazy. And also drive you happy.

“… Now when you’re down, someone will take your hand and help you. When you’re crying, someone will dry your tears. When you’re frightened, someone will hold and reassure you. When you are alone, someone will tell you you’re not.”

The other entry interestingly enough deals with the Internet. These were his reflections 20 years ago and very insightful even today. On the Internet, Chicago Tribune November 13, 1996.

“It’s been my policy to view the Internet not as an “information highway,” but as an electric asylum filled with babbling loonies.”

Now 20 years later it’s taken on a life of its own and I would say that the information highway has taken on a life of its own but it also has taken us through a maze of twists, turns and tweets.

And trying to be a humanist I would save articles such as Ann Landers providing some insight in our day-to-day dealings with people and family. This article on “Teach Children to Love One Another,” was particularly valuable in sending a message as we were dealing with this in our own home with my son and daughter. Which is what most families appear to be going through. Bonnie and Billy when growing up as much as they got along seemed at times to have to be separated. This was specifically true on trips and not uncommon, one would be sitting in the front seat and the other in the backseat. I would like to share this with you and it maybe finds relevance in your situation.

ann-landers-teach-children-to-love-one-another-8-21-1996  mike-royko

Figure #12.14 Teach Children to Love One Another Figure #12.15 Mike Royko Excerpts


Figure #12.16 Art Buchwald article about “How much this country meant.”

A third article as mentioned is from Art Buchwald that I had recently came across and had particular relevance in that when he wrote this for the Bicentennial 20 years ago in 1976, his father had passed away four years earlier. My father Jack, passed away about the same time six years instead of four. My family relished taking part in the 200th Anniversary Bicentennial of the United States of America at our nation’s capital Washington. This is the commentary as he relayed it pertaining to his father. It waxed true for my Dad and for me also about what this country has granted and meant, thank you Art.


The first two trips discussed in the beginning of this chapter were: our travel back to Europe as Thelma and I retraced my steps during World War II as part of the First Army Headquarters Rear Echelon. It was a wonderful trip and meant a lot to have her there. When I think about that we were just married and there had not been much of a marriage. And to have those dozens of letters from her and the dozens of letters that I sent during these three years that separated us during the start of our life together.

Second trip back wasn’t as anticipated. It was the trip up north to visit Thelma and my parents resting place as part of our religious tradition to “honor” our parents.

The third trip(s) appear to a merry-go-round of sorts as it seemed like the gift that just kept on giving. It started with the eight-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and Key West with our immediate family, my wife’s sister, Renee and some of our close friends that decided to join us for the fun. Then the anniversary celebration on the Anniversary Weekend at Clearwater Beach. And then culminating in a week at our ol’ honeymoon getaway down at Miami Beach with Thelma’s and my niece Sharon who lives in South Florida. The Montage unfolds: This Is How It All Started:

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Figures #12.17 and 12.18 Wedding proceedings and Photo

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Figures #12.19 Special train package and tickets to Miami Beach for Honeymoon, January 4, 1942

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Figures #12.20, Figure #12.21 and Figure #12.22 Arriving at Miami Beach and stay at Essex House

And it continued, continued and continued 50 years of marital bliss and then to visit back where it all began on our honeymoon at the Essex House. That weekend was so special as we were treated like royalty as was prearranged by my son to let them know about our exceptional occasion. It just so happened that the hotel had already planned some fireworks of their own as would you believe, the architect who designed the original edifice was there as part of the South Beach Art Deco Extravaganza. So with my niece Sharon “chaperoning us” it made for quite a Cinderella weekend.


Revisiting our Honeymoon Haven 50 years later, January 1992. Figure #12.23 Upper left; Collins Avenue, Figure #12.24 Upper right; McAlphin Hotel; Figure #12.25 Lower Left; Essex Hotel with new facade; Figure #12.26 Lower Right getting our time-stamp and clocking in.

Some of the pictures of our weekend getaway to Miami Beach that began our life together 50 years earlier.

The cruise to “Paradise Island,” the Anniversary celebration on Clearwater Beach was stupendous and escape to our “Honeymoon Hotel” was like returning in time. Or as a take on one of the Star Trek series famous lines, “Beam us back, Scotty.” Thelma and I just beamed with all this outpouring of love and affection.


Our 50th anniversary party Clearwater Beach, January 1992. Figure #12.27 Upper left; our granddaughter Beth giving talk, Figure #12.28 Upper right; daughter Bonnie, my son-in-law Lee and other granddaughter Diana; Figure #12.29 Lower Left; Getting ready to cut the cake; Figure #12.30 Lower Right; Just some of the guests in attendance, Thelma’s sister Renee and a few of our nieces and nephews.

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Our 50th anniversary party Clearwater Beach, January 1992. Figure #12.31 Upper left; Traditional cutting the cake in a more endearing fashion Figure #12.32 Upper right; Son, Billy, daughter, Bonnie with Thelma and me; Figure #12.33 Lower Left; A beautifully “commissioned” Anniversary commemoration, created by my daughter for our special day. Figure #12.34 Right; Article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times announcing our 50th Wedding Anniversary.

During the period of the 1990’s there were many 50 year recollections that were near and dear to me. One of the major opportunities in my life came about as a result of the G.I. Bill. It changed my life, and as the Parade edition of the St. Petersburg Times dated Sunday, August 4, 1996 so eloquently stated “It Changed The Life Of Our Nation.” As stated in the article, in 1946, millions of American veterans – matured by war, some bearing wounds, some married with children – – descended on college campuses. Some of the noteworthy beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill included George Schultz, former US Secretary of State, Johnny Carson, Wylie Selden college official, teachers, pharmacists, screenwriters, and of course doctors, lawyers. In closing, the article written by James Brady stated, ”The veterans knew the value of what a grateful country was doing for them. And it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that, for the rest of their lives, many have been giving something back. The G.I. Bill educated a warrior generation – men who ever since have been peacefully and constructively making this a better country.” Count me in on this, as its exactly what it meant to me and guided me.


Figure 12.35 article in Parade edition of St. Petersburg Times, Sunday, August 4, 1996

So after the celebration and festivities quieted down we got back to our old routine. Thelma had her groups such as ORT and Hadassah service organizations and the Brandeis women. I continued my work with B’nai B’rith (Children of the Covenant) service organization as treasurer. We were both active in our Temple B’nai Israel located in Clearwater as well as the JWV area chapter, Jewish War Veterans and Woman’s Auxiliary.

I did manage to set my sights on another project. While working as a volunteer at the newly opened East Lake High School not far from our home in Palm Harbor, I realized there was a need for a library in this part of town. What started off as a way of having a storefront in Oldsmar in an adjacent city; became an interim library. It certainly was insufficient to meet the needs of this burgeoning community. So working with the group of local citizens I offered my services trying to get some funding state monies for this worthwhile undertaking. We applied for state funds and it was readily accepted and construction of the library began in 1994 and 1995. A follow-up to this story will appear in the next addition of excerpts from the book. Future postings will include a number of my intrusions in the world of social and human issues of our time; some of the victories and some of the not so successes.


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.


MY EIGHTH DECADE, PT. 1, 1987-1997




On February 20, 1987 I reached this milestone; my 70th birthday. I had accomplished much but still wanted to be relevant; even though I was so very lucky. There is my wife Thelma of 45 years, my son, Billy, daughter Bonnie and her family Lee, her husband, her two daughters Diana Jill and Beth Eileen were part of our immediate family; my extended family and hordes of great friends past and present.

I had been blessed with many close family friends, brothers and sisters and friends for a lifetime going back to Canarsie, the War, Thames St., Rose Street across to Long Island, Washington DC and Maryland. In the 10 years since we moved down from Maryland after my retirement from the Smithsonian so many wonderful things have taken place. I was able to grow in other areas and to be part of my wife’s golden years but I could tell there was something in the wind. Things were changing and after my retirement from my second major assignment at Ruth Eckerd Hall, PACT, I re-visited some of the highlights and few low lights and sort of plan things that I would work with Thelma to see if we can make the most of these autumn years.


We were planning trips and also milestones in the foreseeable future; Our 50th wedding anniversary in 1992 and in the back of my mind I had an inkling that I would love to take Thelma and put something in the works in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day landing in Normandy. This would be a retracing of the Allied advances starting in Bristol, England where I was stationed with the First Army Rear Echelon and fighting through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally into Germany where victory and the final throes of Third Reich. Yes, to plan something back to Europe and have her share this with me.

So on May 18, 1994, we departed Luxembourg for French territories the first big stop was Rheims we stayed overnight, the next morning we headed toward the city. We passed an old train and 97 years that someone had painted “boxcar” on the side of the old car. The treaty signifying the end of World War I was signed here later, when Germany entered France in 1940, the French were humiliated by having to sign their surrender in the same car at the end of the war in 1945 when the German’s surrendered to Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, Cmdr. of the Allied forces.

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Figure #12.1 1st Army Operations Europe 1944-1945 Figure #12.2 Itinerary 50 years later

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Figure #12.3 Letter to my very dear Army buddy Irv Bagatelle Figure #12.3 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 1

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Figure #12.4 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 2 Figure #12.5 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 3


In the Jewish religion we perpetuate our family ties by remembering those who have pre–deceased us.

It was an Odyssey that I thought of two months ago. I had a feeling that it was time to visit our parents. On the one hand, it wasn’t a happy anticipation – they had died in 1970. On the other hand, it became a happy obsession inasmuch as we had not been to visit them since 1976, when we moved to Florida. I had decided that it would be a special trip to New Jersey, my wife’s mother had also died January 1970 – her father had died in November 1939, at a comparatively early age.

Our trip required some planning because flying to New York was the easiest part. The difficult part was convincing my brother Al to drive us to the cemeteries. It was a good effort because he is 75. I didn’t realize the energy and concentration required. I was only 77 Lol.

We flew into LaGuardia Airport Queens then to New Jersey where they lived in Lakehurst, 7 miles from Toms River, where my father, Jack Sefekar in 1917, was hurt in a truck accident while working at a munitions depot.

When I first started writing this life story I began by saying – “my parents were poor immigrants in a new land”. They were not “poor” and were not “immigrants”. They were poor in wealth, but rich in foresight and using their innate knowledge acquired through the ages. My parents were not “immigrants” despite their exchanging one physical location for another. Their journey took a logical path within the content of a “new land” in a world that their ancestors had a ready traversed. They paved the way for their offspring, and their offspring to become a permanent fixture and as the star trek manifestation proclaims, “Go forth and prosper.” Over the millennia I’ve had these opportunities to absorb my heritage, of my country and my birthright and blend and weave together into what will be the building blocks of the man I would come. My wife of 50 years played a big part in smoothing out the rough edges even though I wasn’t such a “young Turk” as I would’ve thought. And as you can see from the following guideposts I had tempered with the basics of being part of the larger community or as is bandied around an “expanded village.” But I resorted to the basic building blocks when coming face-to-face, one human being with another.


I’ve developed my own set of constructs that have got me through as I say in order to reach the magic number.


  1. A lot of patience – helps to maintain or heal a relationship.f12-x
  2. It’s helpful not to be too judgmental.
  3. Learn how to forgive.
  4. To practice compromise on a daily basis.
  5. Hold on to a sense a humor for dear life.
  6. Never give up on hope.
  7. Let love take precedence over hate.

I won’t say that I’ve been particularly successful in dealing with women but my advice to men in dealings with women that there are three. words for men to remember – “Compromise and give in.”

Figures #12.6 and #12.7 My philosophy on how to reach the “magic number.”

Funny thing happened on the way to the finish line, actually it was the starting line. The reason I mention this is that my Sonny boy when he first came down Florida 1983 would get into jogging and was inspired by the husband of one of our staff people at Ruth Eckerd Hall who left early from Arnold Bremen’s July 3 party to run in the “Midnight Madness Run” at Honeymoon Island on the Gulf of Mexico. He began in earnest running upon his arrival here and fast-forward nine years later in 1992 also partook in the fun for these midnight races and decided to make it a family affair which meant I was dragged into the fray. I had my own personal trainer, actually physician, monitoring my progress. One of the dearest friends of our family, Dr. David Kalin overseeing my progress. What made this so memorable was a few weeks later I received a letter and a plaque acknowledging I was the oldest participant in the auspicious Kiwanis Midnight Madness Run (**see attachments).


Figures #12.8 Letter to the St. Petersburg Times on my physical triumph

1992- 1ST Gulf War, visit from my Dad’s brother’s nephew Haim and his wife Yona.  They have visited us before but with the Scud missiles reigning down on Northern Israel and the city of Haifa where they lived it was very threatening since Haim suffered from a bad heart. So for over 2 months they stayed with Thelma and myself while the war raged. While he and his wife visited I had an opportunity have him recall his harrowing story about how he survived the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It wasn’t all that easy since his English was not that good and we couldn’t speak Hebrew that well.  We settled on a mixture of Ladino the Spanish spoken in Spain back in the 1492 when our ancestors left Spain during the Inquisition and some Yiddish terms that Thelma remembered. Bill and I compiled the notes and transcribed to include the more pleasant part of the story of after being freed, how they managed to make a worthwhile rest of their lives and flourish in their new homeland of Israel (**See Attachment of Haim’s Story).

This also offered me a chance to delve into my family genealogical chart and piecing together a litany of my heritage. It got me to thinking of my visit to Salonika 10 years earlier. Also the many others that passed through this city on the Aegean Sea hundreds of years before and back to Spain eons ago . It just so happens that a book was published a few years later on just that; a “A Greek Jew From Salonika Remembers,” Which I hope to provide some reflections on.


Figure #12.9 SEFEKAR (Seficha) Genealogical entry as best as can be determined

During this time, I began to realize how important the memoirs, recollections, writings, documents and notes that I had accumulated over the last 60 years starting back in the 1930’s and continuing up until today and hopefully beyond. What I recommend to others that are interested in tracking their own life story is to keep tabs on things that are important, interesting; making a difference in their lives and the lives of the loved ones that make it all worthwhile. The article that I’m attaching had an impact on me. It is Written by John A. Cutter entitled, “Consider Writing About Your Life’s Legacy.” He spells out important guideposts that are easy-to-follow in keeping your life story moving or a play of words, a moving life story. There are many support groups and agencies, libraries, writer’s group’s available. At this time there was the foundation called the Leibowitz Foundation that encouraged such efforts and even had a contest for those that wanted to try their hand in mind that such writing in its “National Legacy Contest.”


Figure #12.10 John A. Cutter’s Article; “Consider writing about your Life’s Legacy.”

So I became immersed in this “Legacy” project gradually. It wasn’t a baptismal under fire. Organizing my files in little cabinets, my letters and writings, etc. It wouldn’t be for another 10 years starting in 1997 sitting down with my son and transcribing the notes into a typed format with our newly acquired personal computers (PC’s). However, let me transgress which is the first thing not to do but I will take a little editorial liberty. I’ll share a song that became near and dear to Thelma and me. We had a ritual of calling my daughter Bonnie, husband Lee and their two daughters Diana and Beth and all our relatives and friends up north when this song became popular it forged a special place in our hearts: “I just called to say I love you.”

I just called to say how much I care, I do              f12-11

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No New Year’s Day to celebrate

No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away

No first of spring, no song to sing

In fact here’s just another ordinary day

No April rain, No flowers bloom

No wedding Saturday within the month of June

But what it is, is something true

Made up of these three words that I must say to you

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say how much I care

I just called to say I love you

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart                         f12-12

No summer’s high, No warm July

No harvest moon to light one tender August night

No autumn breeze, No falling leaves

Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun, No Halloween

No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring

But what it is, though old, so new

To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say how much I care,

I do I just called to say I love you

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart,

of my heart, of my heart.

I just called to say how much I care, I do

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Figure #12.11 Words to “I Just Called to Say I Love You” Figure #12.12 My hand-written lyrics of the song

Some of the material was original such as my reminiscing on taking Billy to his initial baseball game and contemplating what has transpired all these years after that first indelibly marked outing.

Letter submitted to the St. Petersburg Times

Long Time Between Innings, Circa 1992

As we walked around to the Stadium I wonder to myself, when was the first game that he and I went too? He was six, active for his age, (today call it hypertensive). He was great to everybody, and everybody thought he was great. A real boy – my problem was that I was his parent, and it’s the parents job to keep striving to make him probably the best behaved. Well, he behaved alright to everybody, which prompted me to ask him “to please treat me like a stranger”.

We arrived at Ebbets field, located in a certain borough in a certain city, with the always the throaty crowds, and we proceeded to our seats on the third base line. Not being as knowledgeable as my Little Leaguer, how did I know that third base wasn’t the most desirable location? That little miscue caused me a most active afternoon. No sooner as were seated that my charge disappeared. Where do you start looking for the champ base stealer in the league, especially when he reaches only 4 feet high and streamlined to boot.


Figure #12.13 Ebbets Field that fateful day

I could have used the Mills Brothers taxi, as I started my way to make my way around the stadium, and looking up into the cheering faces above, everybody intent on the action on the field. As I walked and looked around Ebbets field I unbelievably heard my name called “hey Joe,” and I recognized friends I hadn’t seen in years – from the neighborhood, high school classmates and also one person I worked with. In a baseball field full of thousands of people, how could this possibly of happened. However, I had to continue on my main mission, which is to find my son. He wasn’t the type that would go to the authorities and report a lost father – so I continued my search which after my second circle around the stadium was successful.

He was in a row in the middle of the section behind first base, encircled by a group of adults, who are listening to the radio while the game was going on, my son was describing the play that was going on below, and is explaining what the announcer was saying – sort of an instant replay. I was glad to find him and I was happy to get our third base seats and enjoy the game.

Now that I remember the first game, my mind is hopscotching through the intervening years, to the last game we moved from Long Island, New York, to Washington DC, in a major career move. My son, now college-bound remained behind and the surroundings he grew up in; but the people who thought he was great, and who were happy to give him room and board. Usually children leave home to go to college – we left home some so he could go to college (and not to have to leave town). But he loved us, and after a short visit to Washington DC he decided he would openly” treat us like strangers”, so We gave him room and board, and he enrolled at the University of Maryland. We did our parental duty, and assisted through school. After he graduated, my wife and I decided to make a major life change and retired to Florida. He stayed behind in Maryland, with his many friends, who although they were not different from previous comrades, thought he was great.

Following a visit to us in Florida, he decided that this was a good a place as any to lay anchor, so he located a few miles from where we lived, got a job, with a sailboat and settled into the good Florida life. People thought he was great, and we do too, because he treated us “like strangers”.

Last week after 37 years so on his 45th birthday, I decided to take a chance and taken him to another ballgame the dream of all transplanted Floridians to see a yearly grapefruit league game. We packed a lunch including some peanuts (who had heard that they were now two dollars a bag) without reserve seats we went to see the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros. This time I got the seats right above first base, and I was the one who scooted around to third to see how things looked from my favorite baseline.

Since it was too sunny, I returned to where I sitting on the first base side, but not at the same gate as yours truly. Coming back, huffing and puffing, I realize you can’t wait 37 years to take your son to a ballgame. Thanks Florida, for making it possible, and making it a good all around the bases day; happy 45th birthday Bill.

Figure #12.14 Letter to the St. Petersburg Times “Long Time Between Innings”


So with Ruth Eckerd Hall behind me and plenty of time beside me I plunged into what could be called my Don Quixote attacking windmills phase. Whereby I would fire off letters on a regular basis trying to make a dent in the social issues of our time. On a not so serious note, I kept busy with keeping track of my fledgling investments system that was based on-no market plunging. And having the time to prepare my lifespan of innuendos, idiosyncrasies and nuances into an enlightened journey that spans the EPOCH of time.

And so concludes, Part one of Chapter 12; My Eighth Decade. The next installment deals with the myriad of projects; community work, building a Public Library in Palm Harbor and activities for Thelma and I at the Temple.

So many remembrances, highlights and philosophical deliberations to elaborate on. There was Thelma and my 50th Anniversary trip to our original honeymoon getaway in Miami Beach; a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise; party at the Hilton and some great family gatherings including my granddaughter Diana’s, Bat Mitzvah in Maryland when she turned 13. And of course correspondence and pronouncements with some very important people to divulge.


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.







January 7, 1984, the Date for the Gala Benefit “Night of Stars.” Well the big day was fast approaching but the preliminaries would prove to be almost as much fun as I explained previously. Excitement was building to a feverish pitch Clearwater, Florida was now far, “From the maddening crowd.” It would forever remain in the mainstream of South Eastern United States entertainment and culture; rivaling the spring break throng. It seemed like light-years away in Canarsie, Brooklyn and my earlier recollections as a young boy Chapter 2 what I titled “45 minutes from Broadway.” Little did I know that I would be 17 hours and 1156.8 miles from the glitter and lights of Broadway and the “Great White Way,” here on Opening Night. It was quite the “First Light” and “Love at first sight,” when the curtain went up I could indulge myself being there, Thelma by my side in these freshly adorned, plush seats.

You can see from the program of events star-studded list of famous entertainers Ella Fitzgerald and Peter Martins New York City Ballet. People from my era remember Betty Comden and Adolph Green and many have seen Mary Martin and Donald O’Connor with their successful careers on Broadway and in the movies. Mr. O’Connor among his many notable career triumphs was his role in “Singin’ in the Rain,” with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. Their famous rendition of “Good morning, good morning, good morning,” graces our breakfast table, lunch table and dinner table with the Tropicana orange juice commercial.

There were so many of these star studded favorites that we just sat and absorbed in awe this great evening as one of our true highlights here in Florida.


Opening Night Ruth Eckerd Hall Program: Figures 11.42, #11.43, #11.44.


“NIGHT OF STARS” Figure #11.45 #11.46 #11.47


Figure #11.48,  Program Acknowledgement and  #11.49 “Family Photo”

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Figure #11.50 Me with Arnold and his Wife Linda; PACT PREVIEW 0CT. 15, 1983

Figure #11.51 Dancing with the Stars or Time Dances On.

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Overview of Ruth Eckerd Hall Project, Figures #11.52 and Figures #11.53

p11 34

Figures #11.54 and Figures #11.55 Performing Arts Center Celebrates its first year

The first year developed a positive reputation among performing artists, nationally and inter-nationally. And Arnold Bremen stressed that Ruth Eckerd Hall was “well on the way to becoming a backstage name.” There’s something special about being on that stage and looking out at the audience was one of Arnold’s favorite expressions.

Eckerd Hall’s much touted acoustics have also brought praise from performers. Pianists Ferrante and Teicher wrote: “A beautiful hall but more importantly, tremendous acoustics. It’s a joy to play here.” Guitarist Carlos Montoya wrote: “The acoustics are the best of any modern hall; also it is the perfect size.” Or as impressionist Rich Little put it: The sound was perfect. All 180 of me had a ball.”


Figure #11.56 LIU Alumni Newsletter, Fall 1984

My stint at Ruth Eckerd Hall (popular name for the Performing Arts Center), was one of my self-satisfying jobs. In 1985 and then following into 1986, the theater was operating on an even keel – the shake-down cruise was over and the Operation was Center Stage.

The evaluations from the Accountant’s reviewing the budgets and projections came back with glowing grades. It was a nice way to finish launching this icon of entertainment for everyone to see and hear.

p16 36

Figures #11.57 and Figures #11.58 Arthur Anderson & Co. Review and Financial Statements

Arthur Anderson’s Financial Statements Auditor’s Report was issued on September 30, 1986. It examined the balance sheet of PACT, Inc., and the related statements of activity, fund balance and changes for the financial position for the year ended. In the opinion of Arthur Anderson, the financial statements referred present fairly the financial position of PACT. Inc.

p17 p18

Figures #11.59 Projected Expenditures and #11.60 Earlier Auditor’s report

One of the preliminary Auditor Reports that was reviewed and approved by the Accountant giving an A-1 rating with sound fiscal practices.

The following are a sampling of the up and coming Programming Announcements that show the wide range of entertainment and shows scheduled to grace the stage and Ruth Eckerd Hall long after I had left this World Class Performing Arts Center.

p19 p20p21

Figures #11.61, #11.62 and #11.63

p22 p23

Figures #11.64 and #11.65

When Arnold Bremen had hired me (at 63) he said, “Joe, you work here will be until your 70.” When I wrote to him in 1980, I was only thinking of a two-year period, during which time the theater would be built and that would be the end of that. 70 comes around pretty fast when you’re having fun. Arnold gave me a choice of a farewell party (the first of the new organization), or I could work another year and phase out.

My salary had increased to $25,000 annually, following my job philosophy “leave them when everything is going smoothly,” I opted for the farewell party. It was really an “artsy” affair. All the staff joined in a sing-along to an early model of the player piano which Arnold acquired for this occasion (see pictures below)


Figures #11.66 and #11.67 Going away party; A Gala Event complete with player piano


Figure #11.68 Going away party; complete with signed by Staff of Official Robert Rauschenberg REH Print

I revel on the camaraderie that was built up on the staff that Arnold Bremen put together. It was our good fortune that Arnold and his wife Linda found a place to live in a development in the same area about a half a mile from where Thelma and I lived. On a few occasions Arnold would host a gathering at his house for the staff and I remember one such gathering on July 3, 1984. My son Bill had moved down the year before and was also invited as there were a lot of staff that would be considered his contemporaries. One such couple was Nancy Siebert and her husband Steve who would later become the Atty. Gen. of the State. What made this particularly memorable was that Steve had to bow out gracefully from the evening’s festivities to participate in the Midnight Madness Run. The race was held on July 4 at midnight, but participants had to arrive at least a half hour before on July 3 to get ready for the 5K, 10K and one K walk. The reason I mention this now was that surprisingly enough with my son’s encouragement I actually participated in the one K walk eight years later. And received an award as the oldest “living” person to complete the race. This of course of the 1K walk. It will be presented in an upcoming chapter.

All in all things fell into place. There was time for traveling up north visiting Bonnie and the grandkids. We did have our friends and family nearby. We did spend a lot of time with them as my time became more readily available.

p27 p28

Figures #11.69 My brother Al his wife Edna, my sister Becky, brother-in-law, Danny and sister Sophie with me and Thel,, #11.70 Thelma’s side with her sister Renee next to Thelma in the front the, “I love Lucy,” red heads.

p29 p30 p31

Figures #11.71, #11.72 and #11.73

Figure #11.71 Congratulatory letter from Al Lerner still the Curator at the Hirshhorn. Figures #11.72 Letter sent to my very dear friend Ben Elzweig, wife. Ben passed away in 1985 and I needed to express my sadness at the loss of my life-long buddy. Figure #11.73 Letter written to Mr. Olga Hirshhorn and talked about what had transpired since my retirement and my correspondence over the years with Al Lerner.


Figures #11.74 Picture from the 30’s with my very dear friend Ben Elzweig


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.








It was amazing what Arnold with his staff put together for the greatest variety of entertainment that I have ever seen and Thelma and me were privileged to see the likes of Broadway while we were living in New York and in Washington at the Kennedy Performing Arts Center. And here we were in Clearwater, Florida on the West Central Coast of the State of Florida to have this at our beck and call. Bremen prepared the table perfectly as his “Sweets for the Spirit” captured the excitement and the tingling of this new venue. It was like being a kid in a candy shop, Thelma and I had a fantastic time picking and choosing the type of entertainment that we thought would be to our fancy. We’ll save this for the next part as Opening Night at Ruth Eckerd Hall (REH) would be looming large. And my son Billy was another one to have the benefit of the fruits of my labor. Because it wasn’t easy to give up what was such a big part of Thelma and our lifestyle that the Smithsonian and Hirshhorn Museum offered but this filled the void very nicely.


A problem we encountered in the construction was in setting up the parking lot. It was one of the finishing touches and getting ready for opening night, October 1984 (coincidentally 10 years to the day of the Hirshhorn Museum’s grand opening). The macadam parking floor was not fully completed – so we put a topping layer of tar. Well, the squishing and splattering resulted in a lot of unhappy theater goers with black goo on their cars and shoes. We had several complaints which were taken care of immediately and efficiently. We had to learn through experience that claims for injury kept cropping up of people tripping over carpets and stairs. Management didn’t know of this situation until we received an increase in insurance premiums from $1,700-$3,400.

It developed that the insurance company was paying off nuisance claims based on letters claiming injury and the company was not coordinating with our office. Review of one claim indicated the claimant, age 86, requested restitution because her injury did not allow her to work. We tightened up procedures, which would require claimants printed forms, listing the type of injury and description of cause of accident. Our insurance cost continued to increase due to conditions in the insurance industry which were escalating in all aspects of insurance, i.e., Workers compensation, property and health insurance.

But back to the glitter, the money was coming in as part of the bank financing the loan construction, operation and things were moving along at a fast clip. It was a lot of excitement in the community and articles appeared on a regular basis. Our quarterly publication Communiqué explained progress on every aspect of the undertaking and the involvement of the entire City of Clearwater, Pinellas County and Tampa Bay area. Arnold from the “Impresario’s Corner” was definitely in his element. He thrived on this kind of fast action exploding environment, meeting and greeting, setting up a kaleidoscope of acts and entertainment for his budding cauldron of enjoyment, pleasing the adults and children of all ages.

The articles below clearly show how Arnold Bremen operated in getting things done and keeping money coming in. I was glad to be a part of this, keeping pace with him as part of my job, making sure a check book was close at hand.



Figure #11.22 and Figure #23, New Funding for REH secured

As seen from the scrumptious treats below on “Sweets for the Spirit,” 1983 Grand Preview in October was in full swing. With a delectable array of internationally renowned theatre, opera and dance. Stars the level of Ray Charles, Arlo Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Chet Atkins, Johnny Mathis, Plays such as “Amadeus,” Stars of the stage and screen, young and old people’s workshop. The list just kept on growing.




Figures #11.24 – Figures #11.28 The Opening Line-up for the 1st Season

Thelma and I did our part in the mix and supported community efforts with our own contributions. The Dress Circle was one way of making this happen.


Figure #11.29 Being part of REH Community Support Group


Figure #11.30 and #11.31 Enjoying our Florida life-style; Thelma’s own success with the “Arts”

During this time, I did manage to keep my writing projects going, kept a lot of newspaper clippings and articles and worked on keeping in the forefront of activities at Temple B’nai Israel and with my wife’s family and sister, Renee who I mentioned lives down the block with her husband Harry. Renee’s daughter Sheila and her three kids; that was a lot of family, a lot of friends. We made some wonderful friends coincidentally one of the retired couples,Sol and Selma Schifman just happened to live across the way when we were living in Country Village on Long Island in Syosset. They were neighbors right across from my son’s best friend Bob Richards family lived facing the Schifman’s house. We really enjoyed their company and many other wonderful couples the friend such as Terry and Francine Kopackoff. This fellow is Russian but he lived in a very Jewish area in Brooklyn and he was very into all the cultural and the Jewish witticism, it was a wonderful time i.e. I kept the writing and one of my projects was that I wrote copious notes of our trip to the Greek islands, 80 pages on a pad that I transcribed and typed into 27 pages that I sent to my sisters and give them an idea of this wonderful opportunity that we had to visit my folk’s homeland. There even was a letter from one of my cousins who was older and knew of our family lineage who wrote me a couple of pages prior to our leaving explaining what had transpired in the early years and how mom-and-pop were able to work their way to the United States (**to appear in the book).


Figure #11.32 80-page Notepad of Trip to Greece

pic-33  pic-34

Figure #11.33 and #11.34 Last pages of notes from our Trip to Greece


Figure #11.35 Typed version; Trip to Greece, 1982, front and last pages

Also we had a very momentous event, my lovely daughter Bonnie and her lovely husband Lee Landau brought into the world a lovely Beth Eileen Landau on January 16, 1983. We were there of course and she was a wonderful addition to our family. Things are working their magic as a matter of fact, Beth will be getting married if we fast-forward to April 29, 2017 in Charleston, South Carolina.


Figures #11.36 Great Medical Team Assisting in the Beth’s Birth.


Figures #11.37 Getting used to the “New and Improved” Family


Figure #11.38 (Upper left) The Landau Family,

Figure #11.39 (Upper right) Joe Baby with Baby Beth

Figure #11.40 (Bottom Left) Diana Jill’s 5th Birthday July 14, 1983;

Figure #11.41 (Bottom right) Bill’s, Going away party, July 30,1983 “Going to be very Interesting.”

Two very notable events took place during this period. One was Thelma’s and my 40th wedding anniversary which took place at the very nice setting of the Holiday Inn on Clearwater Beach, January 3, 1982. Many of our dear family and friends attended this beautiful celebration. It was overshadowed 10 years in the future by our 50th celebration which even included a Caribbean cruise there would be a lot more good things to share before that blessed event. The other item which you “take with a grain of salt,” marked my 65th revolution around the Earth starting on February 20, 1982. Another reason to get together and “party” ha, but more important to feel very thankful and fortunate for all that, that has been bestowed upon Me.


Figure #11.42 40th Anniversary Party, January 3, 1982

Holiday Inn, Clearwater Beach, FL


Figure #11.43 My 65th Birthday Party at Home with friends,

That dining room set is still going strong after 30 years.

And so concludes part 3 of the 4-part series for Chapter 11: Off-Broadway – Ruth Eckerd Hall Achievement. Part four will deal with the great, Grand Opening that rivaled the opening of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC, almost exactly 10 years prior to this. As well as My bowing out; Exit Stage Right.”


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.








With Arnold leaving on his two-week business trip, I was in the day Arnold left. I set about my duties. My first step was to analyze the feasibility report prepared by Coopers & Lybrand, (C&L) CPA’s. Utilizing a report prepared for the Van Wenzel Hall in Sarasota, the estimates prepared for that facility were not applicable to PACT. The C&L estimated a requirement of seven personnel positions for PACT, not realizing that the Van Wenzel Hall was receiving personnel support from the City of Sarasota; neither did they consider that services support, such as electricity, gas and water costs, were also covered by the city. There was no Tampa Performing Arts Center. It wouldn’t be in the planning stages for another 10 years; 1991.

With the revised estimates applicable to the PACT operation, the number of personnel required was 30; and the support services were costed out for actual reimbursement by PACT. With the expenditures categorized by cost and quantity, the next step was determining revenues. As previously discussed with Arnold the best method to use in calculating revenues based on available seats in the percentage of seats filled at each showing. Applying the criteria that Arnold had developed over his many years of experience, I came up with not only the revenues for one season but extrapolating five years into the future. This is what was accomplished in the two weeks Arnold was away. When he returned, I convinced him that the breach and following his orders, could be excused by the end justifying the means. Arnold showed his appreciation by increasing my salary to $10 an hour. But the increase in salary was overshadowed by the beneficial turn of events.

A short time after preparation of the five-year budget, a meeting of the Board of Trustees was convened at the premises of the Clearwater Federal Savings and Loan Bank to discuss the financing of the construction of the Performing Arts Center. The initial construction cost was estimated at $13 million; $8 million had been raised through private contributions by businessmen, corporations, individuals, and the balance of $5 million was to come from a bank loan to be repaid from revenues.

Also in the works were the applications I prepared for any funds from the National Endowment of the Arts which I was familiar with working in Washington with Hirshhorn Museum; the part of the application below.

1         2

Figure #11.5 and Figure #11. 6 National Endowment for the Arts, Challenge Grant Application

The afternoon of the meeting, I got a call to deliver a copy of my Five–year plan to the Clearwater FS&L (**Five-year bank loan application and approval). Although by this time I was the Finance Officer, I had not been invited to the meeting, probably because the initial planning had been done by the Board, and the consortium of banks who were approving the loan had their specialist at the meeting. My responsibilities which grew as the plans developed, were very similar to my Hirshhorn duties. My finance duties expanded to personnel, recruitment, purchase of furnishings and equipment, and supervising the accounting staff. The box office was equipped with banks of computers which we used to issue the count lists thousands of tickets, from which various revenue reports were based. My son who just moved to Florida and was in the computer field gave me a crash course in computers; maybe not the right choice of words as computers are known to “crash.”


Figure #11.7 PACT Finance Accounts Transactions

It was a simple process to train our personnel in the intricacies of the computer and none of us could foresee the expansion of the computer in our daily life. Mr. Bremen, putting his best foot forward assembled one must consider a blockbuster opening season. He created a Performing Arts Center that was destined to be one of the best-known in the southeastern United States. Our backstage manager, Dan Willy, put together a team of electricians and stage hands that did a fabulous job of providing a great backdrop to the worldwide entertainers that were performing. The sound system was the best available state-of-the-art equipment.

In 1982, Thelma and I took one of our overseas tours to Greece. In a way was similar to our trip to Israel when we visited the Tel Aviv Museum and Sculpture Garden, at the time of the start of my association with the Hirshhorn Museum. This time, our tour took us to the ancient city of Epidaurus, in Greece. We made an interesting stop at a huge open air amphitheater with rough-hewn blocks of stone, which were the seats in an uncovered circular building. What was unusual was the acoustics. Our guide remained below in the center of this large open-air building while we were all seated in various locations 25 or 30 rows above him. He spoke in a low-pitched voice, which we all could hear clearly, although we were a long distance from him. Could there be some valuable connection between how clear the sound quality created 3,000 years ago and applying it to the clarity level in the modern-day “amphitheater.”

When I returned back to the office, this experience was recounted to the PACT house communiqué “The Impressionist”, and served as a comparison of the ancient sound techniques used in enhancing sound projection, and the comparison to the modern state-of the art.


Figure #11.8 The Communique’ Summer 1982


Figure #11.9 Art Buchwald Article “Traveling to Greece”

Coincidentally there was an article from the famous satirist Art Buchwald out of Washington mockingly titled “Capital Punishment.” In this particular entry is one of his all-time favorite columns.

And the it was excerpted from the Times of London and accordingly the Greek Orthodox Church has just issued a new prayer asking the Lord to protect the Greek people from tourists. The prayer, which is said by monks and nuns every morning and every evening goes like this:

The good Lord should have mercy on the cities and islands and villages of our Orthodox fatherland as well as the holy monasteries which are scourged by the worldly touristic wave.

“Grace us with a solution to this dramatic problem and protect our brethren who are sorely tried by the modernistic spirit of these contemporary Western invaders.”

The column goes on by saying it’s only fair if the monks and nuns are beseeching the Lord with anti-tourist prayers that the tourists get equal time.

“We beseech you, oh Lord, to see that our plane is not hijacked, our luggage is not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.

“Protect us from surely and unscrupulous taxi drivers, and avaricious porters and unlicensed, English-speaking guides.

“Give us this day divine guidance to the selection of our hotels that we may find our reservations honored, our rooms made up and hot water running from the faucets (if it is at all possible).….

(This part of the prayer for husbands.)

“Dear God, keep our wives from shopping sprees and protect them from ‘bargains’ they don’t need or can’t afford. Lead them not into temptation for they know not what they do.”

(This part of the prayer for wives.)

“Almighty father, keep our husband from looking at foreign women and comparing them to us. “Save them from making fools of themselves in cafés and nightclubs. Above all, please do not forgive them their trespasses for they know exactly what they do.”


“And when our voyage is over and we return to our loved ones, grant us the favor of finding someone who will look at our home movies and listen to our stories, so our lives as tourists will not have been in vain. This we ask you in the name of Conrad Hilton, Thomas Cook and the American Express. Amen.”

The trip wasn’t as bad as all that, as may have been inferred from the “endearing” article. It was actually a very special trip, we took it with my brother Al and his wife Edna complete with cruises and a visit to my family’s ancestral homeland in Salonika. It’s hard to imagine my parents sailing from there 65 years ago. Here’s a picture of Thelma and I having a nice dinner on the cruise (**photos, itinerary and highlights of our trip to Greece to appear).


Figure #11.10 Dinner with my honey while on our Greek Trip

When we got back it was full steam ahead, the budget and the finances from the bank were approved in December.  So we had the green light; construction was also in fast-forward as seen from the pictures below.

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Figures #11.11, #11.12, #11.13 and #11.14  Progress on the Construction of Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1982


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Figures #11.15, #11.16, #11.17, #11.18, #11.19 and #11.20 Having fun with the “Hall” Construction


During this time, I had lost a very dear friend and mentor. Joseph H Hirshhorn passed away in Washington DC., in August. Mr. Hirshhorn was 82 years old and he played a very important role in my life. This is recollected earlier in the chapter on the Hirshhorn Museum’s Accomplishment. The News Release as well as the “Mountains and mountains of materials,” I have kept all these years are still fresh on my mind.

“The collection of more than 6,000 paintings and sculptures Mr. Hirshhorn gave to the nation in 1966 is housed at the Smithsonian institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. It was a terrible loss to me that this person who meant so much for what he gave not just an incomparable gift but he was a beloved colleague and incomparable person even as an elderly man, his energy and enthusiasm and even his eccentricities with those of youth, middle-age years combined synthesized in bountiful amount of spontaneity and an energy and in the words of Sen. Patrick Moynihan was chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Hirshhorn Museum he left behind a national treasure is one of four men whose names are immortalized on the Capital Mall. He also leaves to his friends a fragile and precious memory that will endure as long as we endure. Our love and especially respect goes out to his widow Olga and his family. Mr. Lerner, director of the Hirshhorn Museum was an associate of Mr. Hirshhorn’s over 40 years. His phenomenal zest for life has deeply affected everyone, he will be profoundly missed. His spirit, though, will continue to touch the lives of this and future generations to the magnificent works of art he donated to the museum that bears his name. In the vitality, diversity and beauty, these works will be his truest memorial.”

There are many similarities between Mr. Hirshhorn and myself although not born of such a large family, he was the 12th of 13 children born in Latvia, Europe in 1899. He also came from an immigrant family that settled in Brooklyn and he appreciated the opportunity that this country had given him as is clearly apparent by his donating this massive collection of some of the major great works by pioneers such as Rodin, Picasso, Matisse, Calder and Moore, etc.

I had written a number of letters to Joe Hirshhorn and Olga Hirshhorn, since leaving the museum. My deep felt sympathies and consolation were forwarded to her as well as Mr. Lerner who I worked for at the Hirshhorn Museum.


Figure #11.21 Cover of Card and Invitation for Mr. Hirshhorn’s 80th Birthday Celebration and Reception at his Museum


And so completes part two of the four part excerpts showing how this most anticipated Performing Arts Center on the West Coast of Florida came to be. Part three addresses the myriad aspects required to get everything ready for the grand opening in January of 1984.


Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.






My farewell to the Palm Harbor Arts Center in 1979 was followed by a made–to–order opportunity. A newspaper story in the Florida St. Petersburg Times on August 12, 1980 highlighted the appointment of Mr. Arnold Bremen as the director of the Performing Art Center and Theater (PACT) in Clearwater, Florida and reporting on the groundbreaking for the theater.

Life is predicated upon intuitive action, a sense of anticipation and being at the right place at the right time. This is how things unfolded as I began the next pillar of accomplishments in my life in August 1980 when I came across some information that an executive director was selected for the newly formed PACT (Performing Arts Center and Theater) the Executive Director, Mr. Arnold Bremen had recently been successful at the Samuel L. Clemens Performing Arts Center in Elmira, New York. I had been involved with a fledgling performing arts centers here in the Palm Harbor, Florida and nearby Pasco County, this seemed like just an excellent assignment for me.

I proceeded to draft a letter on August 22, 1980 to Mr. Bremen, congratulating him on his achievement and on his being appointed for this position. I stated some of my credentials in similar areas and offered my services (copy of letter appears below, See Figure #11.1)


Figure #11.1 Initial letter to Mr. Arnold Bremen     Figure 11.2 1st Response from Mr. Arnold Bremen

Shortly thereafter, about a week and a half, I received a letter (See copy of letter, Figure #11.2) from Mr. Bremen thanking me for my letter of congratulations and also of my interest in helping in the project and also that if he would be interested as he was impressed with the credentials that I had submitted. He also indicated that he would be in Clearwater, November and would be happy to sit down and chat. This set in motion plans for this new opening and major “production” in my life, so to speak. Copies of the letters of the correspondence are available.

This was a classic example of discerning the lead, expanding the possibilities by initiating the introductory letter and clinching the deal with a personal interview. As usual, “good things don’t happen fast.” On August 22, 1980, I sent a letter to Arnold Bremen, at Elmira, New York where he had successfully managed the reconstructed Samuel L Clemens performing arts and community center in Elmira, I congratulated Mr. Bremen on his new appointment, listed in five lines my experience with the Hirshhorn Museum, and told him “I would be glad to see you at your convenience.” On its reply on September 4, 1980 (postmark Elmira) thanked me for my best wishes, and indicated that he would be in Clearwater around 1 November 1980, and he would be “glad to sit down and chat with you,” and asked me to call the PACT office.

On September 26, I wrote to Arnold again, thanking him for his encouraging reply, and indicating that I would call his office, requesting an appointment in November. I forwarded to him sample exhibition schedules, floor plans of the Hirshhorn Museum, and a copy of a report on the status of funds which reflected the fiscal year budget and utilization of authorized funding. In early November, I contacted the PACT office in Clearwater, Florida, and succeeded in arranging an interview, this through his secretary. The meeting with Mr. Bremen went extraordinarily well and was held at the Pinellas County Arts Council as PACT had no preliminary offices arranged on the premises where the future Ruth Eckerd Hall was to be located. My meeting with Arnold concluded with an agreement that I would be appointed budget officer at $15 an hour for 20 weeks. And that’s where I had spent a good part of the early planning phases commuting to downtown Clearwater, working with the fledgling staff that Mr. Bremen was putting together.

I was the second employee on the payroll; the first was Gloria Giardini, his secretary. There was another individual, Howard Groth, who was also a volunteer with duties that were administrative but actually he worked with the Board of Trustees. Howard and I worked very closely together and we had a natural compatibility, he had served in the Navy, were very close in age, and are temperaments complemented each other.

1981 was an amazing year to see some of this happening and I was very fortunate to be part of the early development of this splendid Performing Arts Center. There was a lot of interest, a lot of attention, there was a lot of newspaper articles and a celebrity status that even I attained. The Performing Arts Center and Theater, PACT had many areas and avenues to obtain funds from private and public sources. One of the first things to occur was our first annual Dress Circle event in honoring the close to 500 people who had contributed a minimum of $ 1,000 to reach $8 million for the Performing Arts Center and Theater the acronym that identified PACT and made this effort on its way to becoming a reality and start to bring on achieving this noted endeavor. One particular instance in the early part of February, February 16th, Kitty Carlisle was the star to kick off this Saturday night fundraiser. The extravaganza was held at the very palatial Bellevue Biltmore Hotel in Clearwater, a very incomparable setting for this.

As I stated previously the published accounts of the development of the Ruth Eckerd Hall continued regularly. On March 9, 1981 the St. Pete Times, Clearwater Addition printed an article about the volunteers that are the backbone of the programs and such as PACT and although I was later to have a full-time position when things started to get underway in earnest, these contributed to a sense that this is something very important underfoot. The article provided a very lavish segment about me. It was as though I was given top billing and copy of it is attached. But needless to say they felt that it was important to identify my efforts and success at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden as Project Administrator until my retirement in 1977 and I explained that strangely enough, we had the same sort of beginning as I said in comparing this with PACT. We began in a converted apartment on Lexington Avenue in New York and that’s what we have here with PACT. The Offices are in a house converted to offices at 402 Pierce Blvd., Clearwater, downtown, right near the water; a very enticing location and site overlooking Clearwater Bay. I was a given some very flattering advanced billing and it’s good that these kind of achievements do not go unnoticed. I was identified as “a quiet polished man” and that had many years of experience in activating new and very large programs. He took charge of projects for the US Government’s Defense Contract Audit Agency, Small Business Administration, Veterans Administration and the U.S. Air Force, with a BA Degree in Accounting and a “Masters in Management”.

There was my whole life in a thumbnail sketch and they concentrated specifically on the work I did for the Hirshhorn and being involved in everything from setting up a budget and hiring personnel and even selecting furniture for working out contractor problems and then my retirement in 1977 moving to Florida and I had plans on working but as they indicated, but on a more relaxed schedule, ha. They found that out when PACT discovered that I would be offering my services looking into its financial situation with my basic background firmly acknowledged said; “The PACT organization welcomed him without delay.”


Figure #11.3 St. Petersburg Times Clearwater addition, March 9 1981.

Mr. Bremen needed a working budget and I had given him one that takes the project through its scheduled completion later next year: 1982. It was a nice way to get my feet wet, actually to get really immersed in this altogether getting down and being the one who readily prepared budgets three years in advance; this was just my cup of tea. I usually spend three days a week working on special projects like budget and getting contracts prepared. I’m already working on the budget for 1983 which involves projections for a fully operational building indicating that the PACT project will not be close to the 16 million cost of the Hirshhorn but it’s going to be a first-class facility and I was delighted to be working towards the day when it opens its doors to the public.

One of my first remuneration for work rendered under Mr. Bremen was a pay check I received from the period from March 1 to March 12, 1981 for services rendered to PACT. It consisted of 43 hours at five dollars an hour for a grand total of $215. It was a far cry from my days as grade 15 with the US Civil Service, but it was just as rewarding I guarantee you.

1st paystub

Figure #11.4 1st Paystub from PACT, Ruth Eckerd Hall

The days were going by at a fast pace. The summer brought very concrete, pardon the pun, construction progress (see picture below). Budgets were finalized for the coming year and contractual agreements with city and county officials were being transacted. There was submission of the State’s Grant Application for PACT that was prepared and submitted to and approved. I guess this would be similar to what I would have been involved with at the Hirshhorn under the Endowment of the Arts Program. Interest continued to pique as requests soared for tours of the construction site by prominent State and local officials as well as PACT contributors.


Figure #11.5  Arnold Breman PACT executive director showing progress on construction of Ruth Eckerd Hall pointing to where the future stage and orchestra pit will be,

The 1981-1982 PACT organizational chart for “salaried personnel” was approved. My title was Administrator/Finance Officer and I was a salaried part-time employee; it was the best of both worlds.


Figure #11.6 Summary description of PACT, Organization and Programs

A fitting milestone was obtained on December 22, 1981 when we, PACT; agreed on the building loan. A “consortium” of local lending institutions providing permanent financing for PACT, closed on a 25 year mortgage loan in the amount of $5.5 million bearing interest at 11% annum (**see appendices). The permanent loan will enable PACT to move ahead with the building construction and opening that 72,000 square foot Performing Arts Center facility on McMullen Booth Road that has been designed by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. (More of this historic event to be elaborated on).

A short time after embarking on my new career, Arnold had scheduled a business trip to New York’s entertainment district, where he was involved in the process of setting up the star-studded performers that would weave itself in the boards of the theater under construction.

Arnold said, “Joe won’t need you while I’m in New York, setting up a schedule.” I said, Arnold “I have a lot of things I can work on.” But he still thought I didn’t have to come in. I said to myself – “there’s work that has to be done,” and I rationalized that I could report in for duty, and not submit a time card.” This was “gutsy”, but something you can do when you’re retired. I was in the day Arnold left on his two–week business trip.

And so ends the first of four parts dealing with the Ruth Eckerd Hall Achievement. Yes, the budget was completed in fine fashion and resulted in a “salary increase,” of sorts.



Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.







This is the beginning of an ephemeral work experience with the City of Tarpon Springs. I was hired as Assistant City Manager for Tarpon Springs, Florida, the next town over from Palm Harbor where we lived. A long time employee of Tarpon Springs City Hall became the new city manager. He ran the office like a GD Colonel (which he was).  And I’m really being careful in choosing these words because in almost 40 years of previous relations with people in management and government positions, I tried to deal with individuals fairly and openly whatever their rank or position. A good deal of my work experience was in military or quasi-military assignments, so this was a bitter pill to swallow to try to work out a troublesome situation.  He threatened to cut any person’s throat who spoke to the local newspapers without his permission.  There was a lot of salt water under the dock, so to speak, before it came to ahead later on in this chapter.

In October of 1978, I wrote to Mike Goyer indicating my interest in obtaining a position with him, and listing my experience as budget officer (thus putting into operation my previous plans of retiring and finding a suitable job). I was called for an interview, and we hit it off pretty well. He had no regular personnel vacancy but he said he could put me on the rolls under the CETA (Civilian Employee Training Act) Program, which was a joint program where the City and the Federal Government shared the salary cost of $ 10,000 per annum. It was exciting – I worked on the FY 1978-79 City of Tarpon Springs budget, supervised by the Finance Director, and had direct contact with the City Manager. My duties included coordinating meetings with the various city directors (i.e. Personnel, Supply, and General Services) and attending weekly Commission meetings. My relations with all the personnel and the Commissioners were pleasant and congenial, ­until the serpent reared its ugly head.

Working closely with Mike and the Finance Director, we completed the budget. Charley Barnes, the perennial old-timer, who had been with the City for over 20 years supervising construction of streets and sewers in the City, worked on the finances with us. His knowledge of all the nooks and crannies was invaluable in preparing the budget.

Then the lid blew off — the Commissioners were unhappy with Mike (something about his not keeping them, abreast of every detail of his activities), which led to his dismissal. Then the Finance Officer resigned for a better job, but probably in support of the City Manager. I found myself in charge of the City Budget and I was appointed Acting General Services Director, at $ 15,000 a year. I worked with Charley Barnes’, who was now appointed Acting City Manager. I supervised the Personnel Division; the Supply Department and the Streets and Sewers Division. About that time, a sunny day in March 1979, I was standing near an open window about 11 a.m., looking out at a bright spring day, a soft breeze blowing, and I said to myself, “What am I doing here, when I should be out there”? But this feeling of remorse didn’t last long. The sense of challenge and accomplishment replaced any misgivings I may have had, about going back to work.

There were also a number of bonuses, though not in the financial sense. Tarpon Springs is a beautiful city on the Gulf of Mexico and world-renowned because of its famous Greek sponge industry that dates back to the late 18 and early 1900’s. Every once in a while, I would occasionally do a flashback thinking about my father, Jack, growing up on the Island of Salonika, Greece. One of his early trades was also as a fisherman before they left the Greek Isle to settle in the “New World.” But back too real-time, Thelma would meet me regularly for lunch or maybe a dinner at the sponge docks – beautiful atmosphere, delicious foods and a nice way to soak up the sights and sounds of this “Greek fishing village. (Her last birthday would be spent having lunch there.)

They were also noted for their art festivals on the Bayou that attracted thousands of art fanciers and tourists yearly; Thelma would love to drag me along.

Tarpon Springs Bayou (1) Welcome 2 the Bayou

 Figures  #10.42 and #10.43 Tarpon Springs, Down on the Bayou

 Sponge Dock Restaurants Tarpon Springs

Figures #10.44 and Figure #10.45 The Tarpon Springs Sponge Dock where we would have lunch.

So I was budget officer for the Tarpon Springs Government; which was exciting, even though it was only for short time. The city manager I mentioned was ousted by the city board. The finance officer assigned to assist the newly appointed acting city manager was made; hold the phone. The new city manager was a young man, who had a similar job in Arizona, and just made the switch. His name was Mike Goyer. The City Manager became the target of the high and mighty Commissioners – usually there were 5 Commissioners, and the climate was very politically charged. Pinellas County was the most densely populated Congressional District in Florida. The Commissioners vented their spleens on the City Managers. It took only 3 Commissioners to displace any Manager they didn’t like. In October 1978, there appeared to be a personal vendetta by the Commissioners of the various small towns in my County against the hapless City Managers. The Manager of the City of Dunedin (Gehringer) was such a victim. The Manager of the City of Clearwater was also replaced. The Manager of Tarpon Springs could not escape this spate of firings – it was open season.

The City of Tarpon Springs announced that the position of General Services Director at $18,000 was being opened to applicants. The Mayor, Bill Lane, suggested I apply for it. Charley Barnes and I had been running the City with his know-how of the daily operations and my knowledge of the financial activities. I must admit that I enjoyed the relationship because things worked so smoothly. One of the Commissioners said, “I don’t think we should put Joe in the position of General Services Director until a new city manager is appointed. The Manager should have a say in selecting the General Services Director”. Not being interested in having any more responsibility, I didn’t push for immediate action, but agreed to await the arrival of the new city manager, ­right? No, wrong!! The new city manager, a veteran Colonel of the Vietnam War, took hold with vim and vigor.

The new City Manager took hold of his responsibilities. Assuming he would take some time to familiarize himself with the way of the Government operations, they were all laid-back with anticipation, and waited for him to reveal whether he was going to be a benign force or martinet.


We didn’t have long to wait for the answer, which had an unexpected effect on my future. One of the staff (whose identity was never divulged) innocently gave some information to a reporter of a local town paper. The story was unimportant but the city manager took it as a breach of confidence. He called staff together, which was our first meeting, and he warned us, “If I hear of anyone talking to the newspapers, I’ll cut your head off at the neck!” I realized it was all innocent rhetoric, from a soldier just back from the Vietnam battlefront, but the newspapers never got an inside story again. But it did give us an idea of what kind of supervisor we had. I became a victim of this bombastic individual. Our relationship was strictly business – we worked on a budget together. We followed the usual practice of adding and subtracting from budgetary requests submitted by the different division managers.


There were several changes which required retyping of the budget. Our first disagreement was my objection to redoing the whole budget over a minimal variation of some of the figures. He asked, “What authority do you have over this budget?” I said “I’m the budget officer.” He replied, “You’re not the budget officer – I am.” On that shaky basis, I continued my review of the budget under his supervision. At the next Commission meeting, we presented the budget to the City Commissioners. In replying to a question by one of the commissioners, I gave my justification for some of the figures. The City Manager claimed that he was not aware of the data that was submitted and I declared, “I told you about it.” All hell broke loose, and the city manager threatened to quit. The Commissioners would not “look good” if a man they had just hired for the top administrative spot, resigned.


This is the kind of situations I referred to when I listed the advantages of being in “retirement” position. Despite the fact that I knew that there was nothing to be done in the face of a “Little Caesar” temperament, I immediately sat down and wrote a letter of explanation to each of the Commissioners and Mayor, Bill Lane. The only result of the letter was to assuage my “hurt” feelings, but I left on good terms with the staff and the Commissioners. My record of countless career entries for service recognition remained intact. The City manager threatened to “quit” several times after that incident. It was less than a year later that he tried it for the last time; that maneuver again. Like the boy who “cried wolf”, he tried it once too often. The city commissioners said goodbye to the “Lt. Col. who would be City Manager.”


Activities with The Temple, adapting to Being a Floridian:

One day in the latter part of 1978, I got a call from a temple member friend, and he told me of a volunteer group that was working on an idea of performing arts Center in New Port Richey, a town adjoining Palm Harbor. This group had received a bequest of 50 acres on a piece of land in Pasco County. The chairman of the working committee, had organized a group of interested citizens and put their organizational talents together. They were successful in obtaining a planning document from the Frank Lloyd Corporation, which laid out the pertinent facts and figures involving construction of a Performing Arts Center. In view of my experience with the Hirshhorn Museum, it seemed to be a good prospect for me. The building committee’s mission was to raise the funds for initial operations. Inasmuch as they didn’t want to rely on government funding, it looked like a long haul. We set up some of our basic needs. Office space was set up in the Barnett Bank building, which required no layout of funds by PHPAC (Palm Harbor Performing Arts Center), except for office supplies. We were making some progress, but we were concerned with the proviso accompanying the request, “commence building in two years.” We had a small staff: director and the clerk, and myself as finance officer. Being unpaid jobs, it was no surprise when the director resigned. To get a replacement, the committee had to consider putting a paid employee in the slot. Unfortunately, the person they hired wasn’t sufficiently qualified, and was fired. Despite my efforts, we could not get a viable organization going. The failure to accept local government assistance, would be detrimental to the success of this venture. I would learn from this undertaking as the project would never acquire the public support necessary and was destined to fail from the beginning. The expansion of the plans from a performing arts center to a huge complex, including the resort hotel and residential housing, was quite a tall bill to pay. C’est la vie.


As a footnote, this preliminary experience in the world of “Performing Arts Centers” was invaluable in the next phase of my life that begun shortly thereafter.

Luckily, I could always fall back on my retirement activities: golf, swimming, gardening, and social functions. On days that I didn’t golf, I would ride my bicycle to our community pool, swim a few laps and then home for lunch. Thelma and I had routines and we kept ourselves busy on a regular basis I would help her with her rose bushes which she took on in a determined demeanor with awards from the Rose Society to show for it. Here she is at one of her rose shows and here we are tip toeing through the roses.

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Figures #10.46 and #10.47 Tiptoeing through the roses   Figure #10.48 Now this is a rose garden

My children were very conscientious in keeping open the lines of communication with dozens of letters filling up my cabinets and of course it was very satisfying responding in-kind also. And almost as satisfying were the updates on how the Hirshhorn Museum was progressing. I was always receiving publications, my regular monthly subscription to the “Torch” through August 1983, when Billy decided to move down here and join us. It would now be up to Bonnie and Lee to keep the lifeline open.

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   Figures #10.49 and #10.50 A little togetherness never hurts.


More Togetherness!!

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Figure # 10.51 Bonnie, Diana and Lee Chillin’ in Florida Figure # 10.52 Proud Grandparents with Diana Jill, Figure # 10.53 “Joe Baby” and Baby Diana Jill

We managed to keep in close contact whenever possible, especially at family gatherings which has been a trademark for both Thelma and my families. Getting them to come down to sunny Florida during the winter and cooler months up north was not a problem.

So concludes the third and final excerpt from Chapter 10 Retirement, Moving South to Florida 1977 1980.

The Chapter 11 embarks on another of my major challenges and achievements, Ruth Eckerd Hall; the wonderful world of the performing arts; and lots and lots of family togetherness.

Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.






Before getting into some of the major ventures as my post retirement career challenges began to take shape, I settled into a routine of getting acclimated with my surroundings. Lots of warm weather, lots of green and greens with some golf and something to reacquaint myself with; my writings. There were many people, friends, family and Associates that would garner my attention. I was particularly eager to continue my association with my former boss Al Lerner at the Hirshhorn (and his wife Pauline). I did the same with Joe Hirshhorn and his wife, Olga and Sen Daniel Moynihan, Chairman of the HMSG Board


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                      Figure #10.16 Letter Al and Pauline Lerner   Figure #10.17 Letter Joe and Olga Hirshhorn

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            Figure #10.18 Letter to Mike Wallace of 60 minutes   Figure #10.19 Letter to Senator Moynihan

I even had time to contact Mike Wallace formidable TV host of “60 Minutes,” about a news report hearing with George Carlin, the comedian from one of the listeners who heard these dirty words while he was driving with his son and was offended. The new story followed an item on the Skokie demonstration – how can Mr. Douglas talk about an insult on the senses and not say anything about a life-and-death assault by the Nazis in Skokie, Illinois? If it is only an assault on the senses could be condoned under the First Amendment, but an assault on death should not be allowed to surfaces as free speech, when what it spews forth is death.

I went on to furnish some facts if they could use the follow-up scenario: That being a native born American, with some normal religious interest – meaning like attending Friday night services, just as Catholics attend Sunday church services. By the grace of God, my parents migrated from Salonika, Greece to America in 1916. My mother left three sisters behind, they, their husbands and children were slain by the Germans; 15 in all. Four cousins survived the concentration camps – one is in Canada, one is in New York and two are in Israel. My exposure to the Holocaust was during my tour of duty in Europe with Hq. First U.S. Army. Our units liberated Buchenwald and I observed what remained before it was cleaned up. What will stay with me forever was the abattoir with hooks along the walls below the ceiling. Two survivors explained that the prisoners were impaled by their chin on the hooks. Maybe it is a sense of stoicness and the ability to bend instead of breaking that has enabled the Jew to survive throughout the generations. My cousin Haim became a bank guard in Tel Aviv; Eli owns a carpet store in Canada; Pepo is a grocer-owner in Brooklyn.

I kept writing letters, a steady flow of letters to newspapers; TV commentaries; to my family especially my children. And it was reciprocated, here’s a photo of Bonnie dutifully sending a letter to Thelma and me and Billy keeping in touch from his new position as Energy Director in Western Maryland.

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           Figure #10.20 My daughter Bonnie writing us  Figure #10.21 Son Bill as Energy Director



Figure #10.22 A few of Thelma’s prize roses awards

We had a delicate life during these years. Thelma immersing herself in growing roses and community activities of the Jewish civic organization Hadassah and ORT (Organization for Rehabilitation and Training). We also were active in our retirement community, treasurer of the stock club, etc. We had on Thelma’s side of the family her sister Renee and husband Harry that lived five houses from us. Through their help was how we found this really nice home that we moved in, upon our arrival here in Palm Harbor.


Figure #10.23 and Figure #10.24 Part of the “famous” Thelma’s rose garden

Thelma took great pride getting the roses planted and taking care of with a lot of TLC. It involved spraying, fertilizing, pruning and show presentation


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             Figure #10.25 Painting of daughter Bonnie in her   Figure #10.26 Rembrandt’s self-portrait

              wedding dress



Figure #10.27 Original Wedding Photo

As you can see from the likeness of the painting of my daughter in her wedding dress, my wife had extraordinary talent in creating exact likeness of subjects whether alive or inanimate objects. The results are striking as you can see even from just photos.




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            Figure #10.28 scenic view of La Seine in Paris                  Figure #10.29 Morning in the Tropics

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                         Figure #10.31 Winter Harmony

Figure #10.30 Old wooden bridge, Sturbridge, Ma

Figure #10.32 Spanish Senorita 17           18

                                                                                                                              Figure #10.33 Girl with a broom

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                         Figure #10.34 Hawaiian Coastline                        Figure #10.35 Diana Jill at the beach

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                                           Figure #10.36 Flowers in a vase       Figure #10.37 Floral arrangement                                                                                                            in fancy vase

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     Figure #10.38 Fresh Cut Flowers                             Figure #10.39 Poor Artist’s Cupboard

We certainly can’t ignore the continued lifeline going with Bonnie and Billy up in Maryland. Our first grandchild would arrive on July 14, 1978 and was named Diana Jill Landau. Thelma and I would spend time up there assisting them in preparation for this blessed event. We helped fix up their house, getting things ready and helping Bonnie while working with Lee’s parents Cynthia and Irv. It was definitely a most joyous occasion.

Certain unforeseen changes took place during this time period and chapter. An important career development would occur putting a different spin on my best laid retirement plans. This would add another feature to Chapter 10 Retirement, Moving South to Florida. Post #22 Chapter 10 Part 3; excerpts to follow.

Copyright © 2016      William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.


We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas








Once the dust settled down and we got into a steady day-to-day operational flow I was able to take advantage of the fact that the machinery is well oiled and in place. This was apparent from the wide range of daily announcements, editorials that came from all areas in the Washington bureaucracy; the Art World and the Media.

In this final segment the Hirshhorn accomplishment, I’m not going to leave you with a smattering of the writings describing this period but provide you with many of the wonderful letters, documents and expressions of appreciation that took place once the Museum became operational after it opened on October 1, 1974 and became firmly entrenched in the Washington scene beginning in 1975 and continuing through 1976.

The Congressional Record entry dated November 19, 1974; the Senate, from Sen. Charles Percy, (Illinois) summed up his thoughts about the opening of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the Mall in Washington. With a flourish of comments filled with criticism that had been leveled in Washington and in art circles around the country as well as reading reviews, he toured and greatly enjoyed the Museum and Sculpture Garden and believes the initial judgment on the Hirshhorn collection can be summarized in the words of Hilton Kramer of the New York Times, Mr. Hirshhorn’s gift to the nation is “magnificent” and “unlikely to be equal in our lifetime.” In my view, the greatest strength of the Hirshhorn collection is its tremendous diversity. The collector provided us with a true cross-section of great 19th and 20th century art works. With the exquisite creations of recognized Masters displayed alongside unfamiliar works of little-known artists.

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Figure #9-20 Congressional Record entry     Figure #9-21 Congratulations from SI Assistant Treasurer

The above letter from SI Assistant Treas. John F Jamison was most kind and heartfelt giving me more credit that I would not normally receive but seeing it in writing makes all the difference.



Figure #9-22 Smithsonian Newsletter for October 1974’s Announcing the Opening of the Hirshhorn Museum

The Calendar of the Smithsonian Institution gave us an air of legitimacy. We did have our share of new activities, exhibits and we were getting into the mainstream of this wonderful way of allowing Americans and world visitors to enjoy and enhance their knowledge of so many facets of our life and history. The staff was up to the challenge of keeping current with the myriad of art related functions that we were planning over the course of the next few years.

The next target was the Bicentennial for the United States that was looming less than two years away. One of the things that I would take an interest in was the building and construction of another eagerly anticipated new Museum that was bound to attract a lot of attention. The Air and Space Museum was scheduled to kick off during the Bicentennial activities over July 4th holiday. I did have a number of assignments that would keep me apprised of how things were taking shape across the street.  The proximity to the Hirshhorn Museum made it a no-brainer that we needed to be involved and actually share what we had learned from our “meteoric rise” and getting the Hirshhorn started, worked on and completed. It also afforded me the opportunity to come in contact with their newly rising stars that would play an important part in seeing this sparkler also become a fixture on Capitol Mall. The newly appointed Curator for the Museum was none other than Mr. Michael Collins, of Apollo 11 fame (Commander, Lunar Module) of which I kept Memorabilia that appears in the previous chapter. I relished this opportunity to impart some of my knowledge and experience knowing what it was like to be a fledgling, new kid on the block. It was an exceptional event and Thelma and I were glad to be part of it.


But this did not keep us from getting our first major, eye-opening exhibit ready to make our own contribution to the American Bicentennial. The plan was put into place to acknowledge the contribution of the “Immigrants’” over the last 100 years that have come to our shores with the emphasis on Immigrants’ Art Influence.


With all the hoopla today centering around immigrants and immigration we shouldn’t lose sight of how much we owe to the millions, upon millions, upon millions who would be considered refugees that came to this country as a last resort; and not just “ARTISTS – IMMIGRANTS OF AMERICA.” One of the things that I was most proud of was the Golden Door publication dealing with ARTIST- IMMIGRANTS OF AMERICA, 1876 – 1976. Part of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden exhibit and publication; May 20 through October 20, 1976. One of the numerous articles as early as the turn-of-the-century appeared in the New York Times and deals with the heading “Immigration Record Will Be Broken This Year; 1906.”

What makes this so prophetic is that part of this newsletter about the Golden Door is the reflection on what figures to be its personification of “Liberty.” At the base of the statue at the entrance to New York Harbor symbolizes the immigrants’ expectations. On Lady Liberty’s base was inscribed the words by Emma Lazarus’ closing verses: Patriotic sentiments:

…Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore; send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me: I lift my lamp beside the Golden door!

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Figure #9-23 Golden Door Artists–Immigrants 1876-1976  Figure #9-24 Exhibit Fact Sheet

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Figure #9-25 Bicentennial Exhibit, MEMO      Figure #9-26 Bicentennial Exhibit Article, “Melting Pot”

Their acceptance was a cyclical thing; the immigrants’ lot would go through periods of increases and decreases. In the article, the last paragraph states “the outbreak of World War I led to intensified efforts to assure the immigrants’ patriotism and loyalty. By the 1920s, however, a virulent restrictionism began to dominate the American attitude towards immigration. Passage to the Golden Door became possible for fewer and fewer immigrants.” How ironic that things haven’t changed much during the passage of all these years.


The Bicentennial exhibit proved to be a huge access. There were many parties to attend, over 20 celebrations; I would be there. Staff was warranted their own acclamation. I was constantly working on good employee relations: Jim and superintendent Frank; Lee getting the OK to work at home.

The list of current staff members evoked a tumultuous roar of pleasant memories. June 10, 1970 my starting date was safely ensconced between hiring the first staff members Frank and Francie in 1970. Ms. Sewall and Assistant Curator Stephen Weil, “who likes to rock boats.” The great cataloguing by Anne in the library; my final interview with JHH in 1970 before officially starting. I had developed a pretty good bond with Al Lerner over the years and as I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, there were some things that Thelma and I wanted to impart to Al and Pauline Lerner to show them how much all their good tidings over the years meant. So we came up with something that reflected our utmost appreciation.


October 26, 1976

Dear Thelma and Joe,

I must tell you first that your generosity is unusual and touching and it makes it all the more difficult to write this letter. You have shown great concern and warm sympathy all along and that is itself a sufficient gift since it is really the rarest and most treasured of commodities.

A token gift would have been reasonable although not necessary.

But I really can’t, with any clear conscience accept such an extravagant gift. And there is no reason why you should do this as a measure of your affection. The warmth and spontaneity of your act means a great deal to Pauline and me. I am very serious about this and have considered it carefully, my chief concern being not to offend you in any way. But think you will understand that I will remember the generosity will remember the generosity of your intention, which is really the most precious gift of all. With warmest thanks

Yours, Al

Figure #9-27 Letter of Thanks from Al Lerner


Figure #9-28 Thelma and I at one of the Bicentennial Exhibits

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Figure #9-29 and Figure #9-30 The Bicentennial celebration afforded Thelma and me and to revisit some of the galleries and exhibits.



13Figure #9-31 Membership in the National Society of Literature and the Arts

I kept current with activities for the Arts while preparing my leave-taking. Particularly, involvement with the National Endowments For The Arts (NEA). It would set in motion a ripple effect that would serve me well even after retiring from the Hirshhorn. This link would provide the next Jewel in the “Triple Crown.”

Two amazing milestones that took place during this period were my entry in America’s Who’sWho in Government and being recommended for the prestigious Rockefeller Administrative  Award.


In July 1976, I was happily surprised to see that my submission of a biographical sketch was accepted by the publishers of Marquis Who’s Who in Government and included in the 2nd edition, 1975-76 in the publication of the same name.  I record the entry below because of its simplicity and brevity, and the concise manner in which it reflects the highlights of my family history, schooling record, my occupation, my army career and service with the Hirshhorn Museum.

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Figure 9-32 Galley Proof for Who’sWho in Government   Figure 9-33 Actual citation in Who’sWho Publication

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Figure #9-34 Nomination for Rockefeller Public Service Award

On April 9, 1976, Abram Lerner, Director, HMSG put my name in for Nomination for the Rockefeller public service award. He based this on my length of public service, dedicated career to the Federal government and to recognize distinguished service and contribution to the growth and prestige of the Smithsonian Institution. The above application states why he felt this was justified.

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Figure #9–35 Recognition, 35 years of Service Figure  #9–36 Rockefeller Award Winner


Figure #9-37 Draft of final budget submission for FY 77

One of my last the last Budget Submissions for FY 77; it would become effective the following year.

In order to complete an accurate picture of the many facets that go into preparing, designing, constructing, opening, operating and ensuring the successful life of such an edifice as the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden: it required an integrated, dedicated staff and certainly the appropriate amount of resources, financial and otherwise to bring this to fruition. I was certainly blessed by being surrounded by overqualified, over-achievers – Staff both above me, besides me and under me.

Coupled with the fact that Thelma was really my right hand and very supportive, as well as developing into a most “talented artist” in her own right, there was no way that I could have failed to accomplish what I was required to do.


Figure #9-38 Thelma and I Meeting with Smithsonian Officials and Art Experts

The next posting will address my leaving the confines of the Hirshhorn Museum, the Marvelous going away party, as well as leaving behind many of the wonderful friends we cherished at work and the ones that we made along the way, over the past 12 years. The road ahead would bring new challenges, fond memories and even equally great accomplishments.

**Appendices and artifacts will include: Detailed budget transactions, congressional submittals, Hirshhorn publications, letters of accommodation from both government level recommendation, letters of appreciation from staff. Pictures of the building of the Hirshhorn Museum, opening night festivities, Program, brochures, testimonials, retirement party and farewell address.

Copyright © 2016      William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.


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Continue reading THE HIRSHHORN M– USEUM ACCOMPLISHMENT, PT. 4 * 1970 – 1976