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Joe & Heather Gilkey

Where are you from? Where have you lived before moving to Oak Hammock?

JG – I was born and raised in the little town of Trafford, PA – a foundry town founded by George Westinghouse just outside of Pittsburgh. My professional career as an educator was conducted in Smithtown, Long Island, NY. We lived in Orlando before moving to Oak Hammock.

HG – I was born and raised in New York, living mostly in a little town called Calverton on Long Island. My teaching career took place in Smithtown, and then we retired and moved to Orlando, FL.

What was your career?

JG – I worked as an electronics technician at Union Switch and Signal when I was discharged from the Air Force building flight simulators for the Air Force. My teaching career started in a technical institute. I taught physics, math and electronics at Penn Technical Institute. I did this while an undergraduate at the University of Pittsburgh. From there I went to Smithtown, Long Island, where I taught general science in the junior high school for six years. I earned a masters degree in educational administration and became an administrator with the title of media supervisor. That role evolved into being the district chairman for instructional media services. All in all, I spent 30 years in the Smithtown School District.

HG – I worked for 26 years as a middle school teacher – all in the same school district. I spent the first 13 years as a home economics teacher for girls only who were in the 7th, 8th and 9th grades. For the second half of my career, the subject area was called home and career skills. I taught everything from nutrition to sewing, decision making, human sexuality, problem-solving and entrepreneurship. These classes were 6th, 7th and 8th grade boys and girls together as stipulated by the New York State Education Department.

What is a personal or professional accomplishment that makes you most proud?

JG – My career lended itself to many accomplishments, but the very rewarding things were those I accomplished as a volunteer. After retirement I volunteered in two places. One was at the public TV station WMFE in Orlando. It was there that I read the newspaper over the air for those who are blind or partially sighted. People received the broadcase on the SAP channel of their TV’s or by special receivers donated by the Society for the Blind. The second was my volunteer services at Give Kids The World, a non-profit that provides kids with life threatening illnesses a vacation in Orlando. I was able to set up a program called “Memories.” The program involved providing video cameras to the guest families to use during their stay helping to preserve their memories.

HG – Professionally, in 1990, I was proud to be named the Home Economics Teacher of the Year for Suffolk County, NY. During retirement, volunteering for Give Kids The World became my passion. I was a GKTW “Angel” for 13 years and miss that “job” greatly now that I live in Gainesville.

What do you value the most about the Oak Hammock community?

HG – The people. This community has such a wonderful collection of members from all walks of life, all education levels and travel experiences. Secondly, it is very comforting to know that our future is in good hands and our families will not have to carry the load as we age.

JG – Heather has indicated the collection of members who live here is a wonderful collection of people. I agree. It is as though they have been carefully selected for characteristics that make the ideal community. I also think that the grounds here are really quite beautiful, and it is really nice when the weather is shiny and bright to go walking through the woods and around the pond

What are some of your favorite hobbies?

JG – Travel is high on my list of favorites. I have served on the Oak Hammock Resident Council as the travel committee chair. Through that opportunity, I arranged cruises for Oak Hammock residents. That was a lot of fun. I enjoyed putting the trips together and chartering the busses to get us to the port of departure. We always had 20-30 people. I have also enjoyed putting together travel presentations for the Travel Club.

HG – As we have done more than 80 cruises over the years, travel would be the top “hobby.” I also enjoy photography, gardening and reading. Since residing at Oak Hammock, I continue to enjoy compiling the “welcome bag” of information and goodies for new residents and hosting a dinner in the private dining room each month.

What do you like the most about being retired?

JG & HG – Both of us have answered this question the same. We would not have been able to visit much of the world if we were not retired. We have also been able to enjoy all the volunteer things we have done in Orlando and here at Oak Hammock. These are the things that have enriched our lives.

Where is your favorite place to travel?

JG – This is a difficult question for me because there have been so many places that fit this category. It is a case of the place you are at at the time the question is asked is the “favorite place.” If I’m really pinned down for an answer, I would have to say the many islands of the Caribbean and the one island I am most attached to is St. Thomas, USVI.

HG – As we have taken more than 80 cruises, I have a difficult time responding to this question. I’d love to go back to Australia and New Zealand, and I never got to Japan. The turquoise waters of the Caribbean always call to me.

What is the one thing you would want the newest residents of Oak Hammock to know?

JG – I think of three things instead of one. They are: the residents who live here; the opportunities to enrich your life through travel, study, access to medical care; and thirdly, I think about the beauty of the architecture and layout of the entire community.

HG – Joe has answered this question just as I would have done. In addition, I would like them to know it is better to come to Oak Hammock sooner rather than later. Come when you can take part in all the activities, make new friends who then become your family, and come when you still have the energy to get involved.