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Posted By Joe Hamilton


Hal and Willi kicked off the new millennium by moving from San Francisco to St Petersburg. Over the last 20 years the dynamic duo have been civic powerhouses and established themselves as a bedrock couple in the arts, culture and philanthropy scenes. As news junkies who closely follow St Pete happenings, they parlay a perpetual curiosity and love of community into a driving positive force for good, expressed through volunteering, board membership and support of arts initiatives.

Years in St. Pete

Twenty one. We arrived January of 2000

Organizations involved in

Willi: Other than the St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs, I’m on our condo board. I just got off of the board of Jobsite Theatre over in Tampa. Hal: I’m on the American Stage board of trustees. I’m on the board of First Night, and the board of Creative Clay. Willi: Then we support a whole bunch of different organizations. Hal: Carson, Kind Mouse and various things that are outside of the entertainment and arts world. As well as most of the other performing arts organizations in the area. Willi gets me out of bed. I would just stay there for a while. What else gets us out of bed? I guess, just the new day. You know, it’s looking for the light at the end of last year’s tunnel.

What gets you out of bed every day?

Willi: What’s the movie? Think of the Possibilities. Hal: Right, there was a show. It was actually “Remington Steele” years ago. The end of it was this guy goes floating off on a yacht. It’s like, his whole attitude is, “Think of the possibilities.” Willi gets me out of bed. I would just stay there for a while. What else gets us out of bed? I guess, just the new day. You know, it’s looking for the light at the end of last year’s tunnel.

Why St. Pete?

Willi: When we finally decided to leave San Francisco, we wanted someplace that was warm, near the water and had diversity. Oh, and a vibrant culture, because what we were giving up was cold, diversity, a vibrant culture and water.
Hal: But I had never been to Florida before May of ’99, and we arrived here almost on a fluke. It just felt like the place was about to pop. It was in the energy. I think that, combined with the fact that it was beautiful and warm, by September we owned a house. In January of 2000, we moved. Our friends thought we were crazy, but we love it.

What is one habit that you keep?

Hal: We read the newspaper every day. Willi: Well, we used to read the real newspaper when it wasn’t every day. Then we kept it going until this month. Now, we’re strictly digital. Hal: But we read it pretty much cover to cover. We don’t watch TV news. We prefer the printed version of the newspaper, even if it’s digital, because we feel it’s a better balance. You can read it. You can analyze. You have time to think about it. Willi: And it gives you serendipity that you don’t always get on curated news sites.

Who are some people that influence you?

Hal: Probably my parents. My mother in particular never met a stranger, and I’m kind of that way. People like Stephanie Gularte at American Stage. My partner when I was in the garment industry inspired me, and teachers in my high school with my college inspired me. Willi: I think from my perspective, educators in general. I’m an education junkie. Just people who can show me more than one perspective. Deni Elliott is a good example from USF.

What is one piece of insight - a book, methodology, practice - that you would share with our readers?

Hal: I would say, being open to possibilities. We’ve done a lot of travel. When we travel, we try to immerse ourselves to an extent in the culture where we are. Willi: Be open to different ways of looking at things. One of the things that I do all the time is I ask questions. Sometimes I know the answer, sometimes I don’t, but just to either verify what I think is the answer or to learn more about something through someone else’s eyes. Hal: And the power of serendipity.

What is one thing you wish you knew about your work 3 years ago?

Hal: Probably that it was even possible to be as involved as we are. We’ve gotten very, very involved in that part of the culture of St. Petersburg. Willi: I would agree with that, because when I was working in the corporate world and you were assigned to be on a board, oftentimes, the only reason you were assigned was because they wanted the organization’s name on the member list. As a result, you didn’t do anything. You weren’t encouraged to do anything.

What’s next?

Willi: Hopefully keep doing some of the same. Albeit, with more travel again, one day soon, please. Hal: Eating in restaurants, spending time with friends, hugging people. We’ve been lucky enough to get both shots of our vaccinations. So, it makes us optimistic that at some point we’ll be back to some semblance of normal. Willi: I think the “what’s next” thing I’m hoping for is in person anything again.

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