Many times, the impromptu events of life are some of the most rewarding. Such is the case with an impromptu trip last month up to Kisseemee, Florida (near Orlando) to vacation with some of my best friends from high school. Cindy Russo and her sister, Jennifer Russo, and Connie Russo (’78, not related). It was like a pajama party. We laughed and talked till the wee hours like we had not missed a day of being together since high school! So much fun! (We missed you Lori). It was fun to talk about our journeys and the different paths we all took.

My path started much like many: After high school I attended University of Maryland and received a Marketing/Accounting degree. I worked in Restaurant Accounting for 8 years in DC on M Street. Notable restaurants included Beowulf, Sign of the Whale Fitch Fox, and Brown in the old post office pavilion where I watched the filming of the movie “No Way Out.”

Realizing that I wanted to be out on my own, I became a Real Estate Broker in Maryland where I owned a real estate company for 25 years. I am also a registered settlement officer. I now have my real estate license in Florida and work mostly in Palm Beach, Martin, and some of Broward counties. Following our move to Florida in 2014, I was the CFO of a large 50-person swimming pool company which a friend of mine owned. I now work from home as a Stock Pattern Day Trader and I own a Beauty/Health Life Science small business with Ian Ziering, a West Orange native and TV and Movie Actor, as one of my business partners, all in addition to my real estate.

Working in the restaurant industry does have its advantages. For example, I met my husband Cliff in Maryland when we were 21. He was a chef at Straw Boss Restaurant where I waitressed and hosted. We had the same friends in the fraternity that I served as little sister. We got married in 1988 at 29 years old at the Manor in West Orange. Married for 35 years but together for 42 years. Cliff was a chef for years but after four back surgeries he now sells cars for the past 14 years at Autonation. He was the number one Suburu salesman in Maryland and now sells Chevrolet and all kinds of used cars.

We have one son named Joey who is the love and heart of our lives. After a miscarriage and years of doctors at 42 years of age, Joey was the miracle we had hoped for. My grandfather passed in April of 2001 at 91 and 8 days later we received a call that we were going to be adoptive parents! Joey was born that June and we literally held him on his first day of life. We know he was our miracle baby from my grandpa Joe for whom Joey is named after. (Picture of Joey and my grandpa attached) They look alike. At the same time, my best friend Lori Baker Dwyer was in the process of adopting her daughter Anna. Lori and I are still best friends to this day.

The years flew by. Joey is 22 now. He graduated high school in 2019. With dual enrollment, Joey became a certified firefighter and certified EMT at age 18 from Barry University. He also just graduated in August from Diesel Mechanic school and is currently employed full time as a diesel mechanic with Penske Motors in Florida. Additionally, Joey is an Eagle Scout, which was a significant achievement. We are over the moon proud of him.

We moved down to Wellington, Florida in 2014. During our move to Florida, we were invited to stay at the home of my high school friend, Donna Mile Keohane in South Carolina. Wellington is home to the Winter Equestrian capital of the world. We love it and feel like we are on vacation every day. We live across the street from our beautiful lake and have gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. It is Paradise.

My parents lived in our home on Rossmore Terrace in Livingston until 2015 so we went back and forth to Livingston every other month. My sister and family still live in Livingston, so we still have a family connection to our growing up town.

A while back, I somehow got “nominated” to organize LHS/South Florida get togethers. Over the past few years, we have held a number of events at different venues, and they always are a great time. They are generally once a month. It is open to all years of graduations from Livingston, and it has been fun to see and meet new people from Livingston down here in Florida. If you live in or visit South Florida, you are encouraged to reach out to me and I will get you onto the group list. You’d be amazed at how many people from Livingston are in South Florida!

Living in Paradise, we feel pretty content. Future plans include continuing all our adventures and travels and of course watching Joey continue to grow and prosper! And friends are always a highlight!

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