Naples, Florida is attracting a sizable contingent of Pittsburghers. A recent performance by Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra string players Christopher Wu, Jennifer Orchard, Marlene Gingris-Roy and Ann Martindale Williams and clarinetist Michael Rusinek was 85 percent local, according to former PSO member Stanley Leonard.
Carl McVicker, one of Fred Rogers' sidemen, says that former Pittsburgh Press reporter Gilbert Love played a large part in Naples' growth by writing about it frequently in his column. That's how McVicker became aware of the Florida city.
Here's an update on local residents who have moved down South to taste not only the good life, but a good artistic life. They offered what they miss most and don't miss about Pittsburgh and, of course, the reasons that they chose Naples -- besides the great weather.
Jim and Darlene Blakemore: A drummer at the Holiday House for "150 years," Jim backed singer Jack Jones on tour until a recent heart attack put a crimp in his travels. Now on the mend, Jim traveled to Naples on McVicker's recommendation and settled in the Bonita Springs suburb because "nobody was here." Now it's "always busy," with "so much money, it's scary." As for Pittsburgh, he calls it "a family town. When you grew up in a section of town, that was it -- that was your family. You got to know neighbors and friends and you trusted them."
Bonnie and Steven Crosby: Former Upper St. Clair and Gateway Towers residents, Steve was a banker and Bonnie served on the board of the Pittsburgh Dance Council. Bonnie's health was a consideration in choosing the temperate climate of Naples. The couple did considerable research, rejecting California because it was "a cultural wasteland. For us, the cultural side of life is critical." Bonnie misses the cutting-edge quality in Pittsburgh groups like Quantum Theater and Attack Theater and Steve misses Pittsburgh's "deep cultural roots." But they don't miss the city's failure to capitalize on the Fifth Avenue corridor.
Stanley and Margaret Leonard: Stanley was the principal tympanist of the PSO from 1956 to 1994. Having played under three conductors, he found Andre Previn the friendliest, but notes that each "had their own strengths." William Steinburg conducted Mahler and Beethoven with great aplomb, he says, while Loren Maazel was best at the contemporary repertoire. With his wife, a former guidance counselor at Chartiers Valley, he flew to several locations before settling on Naples. Stanley now composes -- he's had forty percussion works published and played all over the world. He misses "friends I made musically."
Linda and John Rader: This Upper St. Clair pair are part of a new trend -- they have permanent homes in both Naples and Pittsburgh. They moved away once, which they thought was for good, but missed their son and his wife and the grandkids too much. So they bought a new home in the old neighborhood where they had once lived. Besides, "our old group [of friends are] still there," says Linda, who worked at Friendship Village. As for John, once an employee at J.C. Penney, he misses Pittsburgh's sports -- Tampa and the Dolphins are two hours away.
Dr. Edward and Angela Scherder: This Penn Hills dentist was also a lawyer for a time. But he decided that the uptempo lifestyle meant that he was missing out on his two children. So the Scherders made the move to Naples' laid-back lifestyle. Edward still misses his family in Saxonburg and the friendly Pittsburgh people who don't just give directions to lost motorists. "They'll get in the car and drive you there."
Cathy and Jerry Unger: This pair from McMurray kept it all in the family by choosing Naples. Cathy's parents began coming down in the 1970s and beat the housing boom when they bought their condominium. The Ungers moved down permanently after Jerry retired as a PSO percussionist. Jerry loved the "total picture -- all the aspects of the arts" in Pittsburgh and admired the architectural splendor of Heinz Hall every time he walked in for rehearsal. He still frets that the Pirates' attendance is down and laments the "short-sightedness of the road planning in improving entrances to and exits from the city."
Jane Vranish can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.