Telephone Repairman Follows His Dream: Designing Women’s Shoes

Since his junior year in high school, Chris Donovan has been sketching women’s shoes. It’s been his quiet obsession for the past 30+ years.

At the age of 50, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. And he knew it was time to leave his safe job at the phone company to pursue his lifelong dream. “I need to follow this. I need to find out why I have this passion for shoes.”

Based on the recommendation of European shoe designer Aki Choklat, he was accepted to Polimoda, one of the best fashion design institutes in the world. He enrolled in an accelerated masters program and packed his bags for Florence, Italy. And while his first few months were difficult, he ended up graduating at the top of his class.

Since our initial interview with Chris in October 2018, he has figured out how to turn his amazing designs into an actual product. Take it from Tim Gunn of Project Runway: “It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

For more examples of Chris’ amazing designs, visit

At 63, He Joined The Peace Corps And Moved To Moldova

The majority of Peace Corps volunteers are idealistic, recent college graduates looking to make a difference in the world. But David Jarmul and his wife Champa are different. They joined the Peace Corps together in May 2016. Both were 63 years old.

David had been serving as the Associate Vice President of News and Communications for Duke University for 14 years. Champa was employed as a sonographer/ultrasound technician. For David, it was his second tour of service. Thirty-seven years earlier he had served as a Peace Corps teacher in Nepal.

He describes their experience working for two years in Moldova in a wonderful new book called “Not Exactly Retired. A Life Changing Journey On The Road and In The Peace Corps.”

David and Champa Jarmul celebrate the completion of the two years of Peace Corps service in Moldova.
David and Champa Jarmul celebrate their two years in Moldova by ringing the Peace Corps “completion of service bell.”

California Dreaming: A 3,000 Mile Journey Starts One Family’s Second Act

Kathy and Gary Friedle and their two boys lived in New York City. Both had high-powered jobs – Kathy as an architect and Gary as an asset manager in a financial management firm. They worked long hours and increasingly felt they were on a treadmill that kept moving faster and faster. They dreamed of one day retiring and opening up a bed and breakfast.

But rather than waiting until their sixties they decided to make a move at 45. They talked with their two boys who were willing to relocate to California. And rather than opening up a bed and breakfast in New England, they bought a 16 room hotel in Palm Springs, California that was a working nudist resort at the time. They said goodbye to the nudists and brought the hotel back to its original name of the Monkey Tree Hotel.

The Friedle Family — Cathy, Gary and their two sons — made the journey to Palm Springs, California.


After 25 Years, An NBA Referee Finds A New Calling

Steve Javie worked as an NBA referee for 25 years. He officiated nearly 1,500 games including 20 NBA finals. He was widely regarded as one of the best referees in the league.

But in his 24th year in the league, his knee started to give out. He returned for one final season – his 25th year — but  that was it.

Steve is a religious man and after his basketball career, he asked God to help guide him. And that led him to the St. Charles Seminary and seven years of study to become a Catholic deacon. He was ordained in June, 2019.

An Extra Cheesy Second Act: Paulie Follows A Love Affair With Pizza

Paul Giannone (known to all as “Paulie Gee”) grew up in Brooklyn, NY but moved to New Jersey as an adult. For most of his professional career he worked with AT&T and their subsidiaries as an information technology staffer and eventually a consultant. And candidly he never liked the work – he never felt he was very good at it either. But he needed to support his family so he stuck it out.

While he didn’t love his work, he loved pizza — absolutely loved everything about it. And at the age of 56, he took an incredible leap of faith – returning to Brooklyn and opening up Paulie Gees — a pizza restaurant. He’s been remarkably successful and “Paulie’s Slice Shop” followed in Brooklyn as did Paulie Gees franchise restaurants in Chicago, Columbus and Baltimore.

Paulie secured 15 different investors that helped him launch the restaurant. But he also took out a home equity loan and put his own “skin in the game” to pursue his dream. It was a big risk but it has all worked out. As Paulie told us, “This is beyond my wildest dreams, I had no idea how happy I could be…I am doing what I was born to do, what I am wired to do.”

*A slice of Paulie Gee’s “HellBoy” pizza. All photos by Kenny Chung.

“I Want To Learn How To Weld”…Becoming An Artist at 48

Zammy Migdal arrived in the United States from Israel in his early 20s. He studied hospitality in college and built a career in Miami’s hotel industry. And at a fairly young age he launched an art-deco, boutique hotel in South Beach called the Indian Creek Hotel. He operated it with great success for nearly two decades.

But the September 11th attack had a devastating impact on Miami’s hotel industry. And the growth of the internet made it difficult for boutique hotels to compete. So at the age of 48, Zammy sold the hotel.

He had no idea what he wanted to do next. But he had always been interested in art and so he took a course in welding at a local art studio. And today he is a highly-successful artist focused on metal sculpture. His work is displayed around the world.

I sat down with Zammy in his home in Miami. He showed me his studio and a number of pieces that he has created. And we talked about his second act.

Best Of 2019 Episode: Goodbye Accounting…Hello Acting

As we start the new year, we’re pleased to share the episode named by Second Act Stories listeners as the “Best of 2019.”

Most of America already knows Kyle Merker. The commercial where he “trades in his lederhosen for a kilt” has aired 22,000 times on broadcast television.

Kyle filmed the Ancestry commercial at the age of 53. And the experience sparked an old passion that encouraged him to pursue acting after 25+ years in the world of accounting and finance.

In just three short years, he’s been remarkably successful being featured in range of other commercials, television programs, films and theater projects. But he took acting seriously enrolling in a two-year program at the Michael Warner Studio in New York City. And he prepares meticulously for each and every audition.

Life’s A Beach For Phil and Arthur: Two Lawyers Start AP Yoga

Arthur and Phil have been together for 20 years as a committed couple. Both had long careers as lawyers. Phil worked for 30 years as an in-house corporate lawyer for a large insurance company. Arthur concluded his legal career as the Dean of Students at New York University Law School.

They retired in their mid-50s and have followed a wide range of passions: art, music and travel. But at the top of the list is yoga instruction. They have created an amazing experience called AP Yoga. Yes, between Memorial Day to Labor Day, you’ll find them on the beach in Asbury Park, NJ. Seven days a week they teach yoga seven-days-a-week to an enthusiastic group of regulars and tourists from 7:45 to 8:45 am.

During the winter months, they teach yoga on Saturday mornings in their local community center in nearby Interlaken, NJ. And that’s where Second Act Stories had a chance to catch up with them and their students.

Special thanks to my friend Jodi Heinz who is a regular at AP Yoga and suggested this episode.


At 65, Descendant Of Georgetown Slaves Finds Second Act On Campus

Today’s story goes back 181 years to 1838. That’s when 272 men, women, and children were sold by an order of Jesuit priests and the proceeds of the sale was used to pay the debts of Georgetown College, now Georgetown University. The slaves had lived on plantations belonging to the Jesuits in Maryland. They were put on a boat and moved to their new owners in Louisiana.

Melisande Short-Columbe is a descendant of this group known as the GU-272. Two-and-a-half years ago she left her work as a chef in New Orleans and entered Georgetown University as a freshman. She was 63 years old.

She is now in her junior year at Georgetown. I visited her in Washington where she was house-sitting for one of her professors. She made me a cup of tea and we sat down for a candid discussion about her great, great, great grandparents Mary Ellen Queen and Abraham Mahoney and about becoming a full-time college student in her 60s.

Of All The Gin Joints In Washington: Retired Lawyer & Son-In-Law Launch Distillery

Michael Lowe was a corporate lawyer in Washington DC. When he left Verizon’s legal department at the age of 59, he started doing yoga five days a week and reading like a fiend. But his wife was still working. And he was getting bored puttering around the house.

So what did he do? Michael launched Washington’s first distillery in 100 years and started making “Green Hat Gin” with his son-in-law John Uselton.

Their success is very different than the traditional model of a family business started by a first generation and then grown by subsequent generations. Michael and John started the business together. Michael brought the regulatory experience and a large amount of the capital. John brought sales experience, a network of contacts from his years in Washington’s alcohol and restaurant industry and the energy of someone in the early stages of a new career.

It’s proven to be a powerful partnership. And out of that partnership came a great product. So if you find yourself in Washington one weekend, I suggest you stop in to their tasting room, say hi and sample a cocktail with Green Hat Gin.