I was born in Prince George’s County MD to Thomas (Tom) & Mary in 1968. My parents were only 21 years old and my father had just started dental school at the University of MD. My earliest memories pick up around the age of three on Belt Fort Rd. in Randallstown, MD. This is where my younger sister Tara was born. By the time I was four, my father had graduated from dental school, enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Fort Ord (the now defunct military base in Monterey, CA).
I vaguely remember the two years spent in California. Although, the coast of central California is not the best geography for a young kid… always too warm to snow, and always too cold to go swimming in the ocean! I also remember making great friends with kids with great names like Happy Arnold and Ture Hoeffner (these are not nicknames, just poor kids with hippy parents). It was also in California that we acquired our first family pet… “Pooh” (half cocker spaniel, half poodle).
After only two years, my father had completed his enlistment with the Army and decided to join a private practice in Silver Spring, MD. I remember our move across county in a family station wagon. We took, shall we say, the 5,000-mile “scenic” route. It began by heading north to the beaches of Oregon, where we collected lots of stray “driftwood” (I’m still note sure why) and got the station wagon stuck in the sand. I also remember visiting “Old Faithful” at Yellowstone National Park and hoping I would see Yogi Bear. We also ventured up into Canada where my father couldn’t find anyone to serve him Canadian bacon. The last leg of the trip took us through Niagra Falls. Hardly a cure for boredom for a six year old.
After a brief stay at my father’s Aunt Anne’s home in Delphi, MD, our family moved into a rented house on Sterling Rd. in Silver Spring, MD. It was here that my younger brother Cregan Benjamin (Ben) was born.
I have many fond memories of our home on Sterling Rd. Good bits of it having been well documented on an 8mm-film camera given from my mother’s father Edward Cregan Kennelly to my father. I attended Four Corners Elementary School for the 2nd-4th grades. I also frequently played basketball at the Silver Spring Boy’s Club and at the hoop up on the corner. I remember making good friends with Joey Gonterek, Mark Still, and Norman LaCroix. I also distincly remember how one’s kickball prowess determined one’s social status! It was also during these years that I began my music endeavors. By 1977, my father decided to open his own practice in West Friendship, MD and my youngest brother, Michael was born.
In 1978, our family moved to a brand new split-level home on Long Valley Rd. in Westminster, MD. This was a rough transition for me. Although I quickly made neighborhood friends (Ricky Hanson, Jeff Lee, Steve Kotten, & Cliff Demarest), I did not adapt well to the fifth grade – my one and only year at Westminster Elementary. Despite a few personality clashes with Miss Martin (the math teacher) and a few fellow students, I managed to survive and move on to West Middle School, a much more enjoyable experience. It was at West Middle where I met two of my lifelong friends, Steve Sharp and Bob Blubaugh. It was also at West Middle where I began to play the bassoon. I had also become an expert in solving “Rubik’s Cube!”
In 1982, I entered Westminster High School as a freshman. Although I had many different “groups” of friends, and I was very involved in the music program, I did not particularly distinguish myself during these years. I recall one episode where I was called into the guidance counselor’s office to discuss the confusing disparity between my dismal under-achieving 2.35 grade points average and the over-achieving level of my S.A.T. scores – 700 math, 620 verbal. In other words, I knew what was going on, I just didn’t feel like doing any work necessary to let the teachers know I knew what was going on.
These early high school years were highlighted by a fascination with the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons. “Overnight” games were played were played on weekend in the basement of Matt Doyle along with Steve Sharp, and Kurt Heinselman. Many Orcs and Zombies died in the Doyle basement during these years, that’s for sure.
Whenever I wasn’t geeking out with my close friends slaying undead and dragons, I enjoyed hanging out with the cool gang which included Jeff Kalb (and his bad-ass Chevy Nova with Volvo seats), Kathy Muth, Pam Fiore, and Chris Spangler.
By age sixteen, I had earned my driver’s license. My first car was a 1972 Mercury Comet that was left dead in our driveway by my father’s brother, Michael. My friends affectionately referred to this fine automobile as “The Vomit.”
My senior year at Westminster High, was a cream puff. Since I had already completed all of the credits required for graduation, I qualified for the “work-release” program, which allowed me to leave school at noon everyday to work in my father’s dental office.
The first semester at Towson University, I lived at home with my parents and commuted back and forth to Westminster everyday. With 8:30am classes five days a week, I thought this was just brutal! The second semester I moved on campus to Scarborough Hall. I later spent one semester of my sophomore year on the “new side” of the Towson University dorms – Tower D – and then to the Tall Oaks Apartment Complex in South East Towson. My roommates through these years were Paul Dahlka and James (Jamie) Patrick Parker. Jamie was a wild and free spirit who went on to become the Oriole Bird, but was later killed in a tragic car accident while giving an off-season appearance as “The Bird.”
It was Towson University where I met fellow bassoon student and future wife, Terri Lynn Ilioff, although we would not start dating seriously until my junior year. The summer after my freshman year of college, I wandered through Hunt Valley Mall in search of a summer job. I stumbled upon an opening in the 1-hour photo lab in Ritz Camera Center. Within a few months, it was obvious that I could be better utilized in a sales capacity. And within a few weeks, I had sold a camera to the district manager of Stereo Discounters Electronic World. He was so impressed with my polished sales skills that he recruited to a part-time position with one of his stores on Aylesbury Rd. in Timonium, MD. Unfortunately, I had jumped onto a sinking ship and Stereo Discounters had declared bankruptcy within one year. I was then recruited and hired by Stansbury Stereo (the Rt. 40 West Store) in 1988, my junior year of college. Unfortunately, I had jumped onto another sinking ship, and Stansbury Stereo had declared bankruptcy within one year. Hmmm… I noticed a pattern here… Was it me?!
During my tenure with Stansbury, however, I had become a homeowner. On October 26, 1989, I settled on a townhouse backing up to Mt. Pleasant Golf Course in Baltimore, MD. It was a genuine “fixer-upper,” that I never could have completed without the help of my family and my new roommate, Todd Butler. Todd owned a Brunswick pool table and professional dartboard that we kept in the basement, and my house became the quintessential bachelor pad.
My next employment endeavor was to become licensed and work as an independent insurance agent. By 1990, I was licensed to sell life & health insurance products and I began selling policies for companies such as Mutual of Omaha, Baltimore Life, Western Fidelity, The Franklin, LifeUSA, and others. This proved to be a very ideal situation since it allowed me to set my own schedule and work around the demands of a school schedule, and it taught me a tremendous amount about financial planning.
Also in 1990, I purchased my first personal computer. I became the proud owner of a Packard Bell 286 with 1MB of RAM and a 40MB hard drive. I could barely run Windows, but it was my first into a brave new world.
In 1991, I began work towards a Master’s Degree at the Peabody Institute of Music and my then fiancée, Terri Lynn Ilioff, entered the U.S. Navy music program. Terri was stationed with the U.S. Navy Fleet Band in Norfolk, VA for four long years. I can say that the four hours of Route 95 between Baltimore and Norfolk got plenty of wear during these years.
By 1994, I had completed my Masters Degree and began my work towards a Doctorate in Musical Arts (DMA). Also in 1994, I was offered a position to work part-time at Gramophone, Baltimore’s premiere retailer of high-end audio/video products. This position allowed me to do custom in-home audio/video system designs with cutting edge equipment and technologies. $5,000 – $50,000 were not uncommon price tags.
On June 17, 1995, Terri and I were married at St. Stephen’s Church in Kingsville, MD. Our honeymoon was one week in beautiful sunny Aruba. On October 2, 1995, we added the first additional to our household… our cat Snuggles. Snuggles was found as a kitten wandering in the bushes of Terri’s brother’s house. On February 13, 1996, Snuggles was introduced to a brother… John Paul II (JP). JP, a gray and white feline, was adopted from the SPCA. And on May 12, 1999, Snuggles and JP met their new sister Destiny. Terri found Destiny as a neighborhood stray cat who was battered and pregnant. Terri took Destiny to the veterinarian who delivered Destiny’s kittens and nursed her back to full health over the course of three months. She was very happy to have a good home (sadly, Destiny left us at a young age in the Summer of 2004).
You’ll notice that there currently is no Chapter Two yet, as it is currently being written while my wife Terri and I grow our family and our business endeavors. Check back for an update once these Chapter Two years are complete. In the meantime, it is quite easy to see the raw footage of the Chapter Two movie in real-time via the social media links in the top right. :-)