Childhood friends sail into town to reconnect

By Susan Wenner

Publisher/People Editor

 

Few people still have ties with kindergarten and scouting friends from Elementary School but Richard Phagan has not only kept those relationships kindled but sails into town and invites the folks aboard his yacht for some laughs and reminiscing about days gone by.

His roots go back to May 29, 1940 when he was born at the Sanford Hospital located on the southwest corner of Oak Avenue and 5th Street. He lived in Sanford until graduating from Seminole High School in 1958 when it was located on French Avenue, college in Alabama and then Auburn University. He later joined the U.S. Air Force at the beginning of the Vietnam War and attended University of Maryland overseas while stationed at Okinawa. Phagan eventually returned and graduated from Stetson University with a degree in business and primarily in real estate. Judith Phagan became his wife some 35 years ago with the wedding on his sailboat on the Gulf Coast at a place called Shell Point, Wakula County near Tallahassee.

His heart was never far from Sanford though. Meeting Teddy Walker in 1945 in kindergarten at the Little Red Schoolhouse on Palmetto Avenue (later the building burned). The duo stayed close, earning their Eagle Scout badges in 1954 at the age of 14, along with 5 other friends. "I loved every minute of being a scout and was at summer camp at Camp lanoche 3 years in a row as a camper after which I was on the Camp staff for three years in a row," he said. "Scouting took a backseat when I started dating. I credit Mr. Stanley Vihlen, our scoutmaster, for our successes as Scouts and growing up as young men. He was the finest man I have ever known. He is also the father of Sydney Vihlen, who is a former county commissioner and who received Eagle Scout with us. In addition to being an eagle scout I was tapped and made a member of the Order of the Arrow which is a little known branch of scouting. Our class has basically had reunions at five and ten year intervals since we graduated. Unfortunately, several of our class have passed away over the years and many do not get around as well as they used to. It is always good to get with them and reminisce about the old days and how Sanford has changed. This time was not an official reunion but rather a quickly orchestrated visit on my boat, Infinity.  This is the first time a get-together has been centered around our boat."

Phagan described his memories of Sanford like a Norman Rockwell setting or a bit like Mayberry. He worked the family store at 1600 Southwest Road briefly but remembers trips to Pig & Whistle, also working at McReynolds drugstore as well as 50 cent per hour pay, nickel Coca Colas and 35 cent cheeseburgers. HIs own great grandfather acutally ran the Sanford clock with his Model A Ford. But, days since his Air Force days he operated his grandfathers store in Oviedo, college, marriage and a career working as a Florida General real estate appraiser with the Department of Transportation, his own business and later a certified building  contractor, a realtor, real estate developer and property owner.

Although Phagan and his wife currently live on the water just east of Tampa Bay they always make time to return to Sanford in their yacht, Infinity, to visit long time friends and smile as they travel throughout his old stomping ground of Sanford. 

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