Virgil Springer is officially retired. At least, he’s supposed to be. The former teacher, a resident of Copeland Oaks Retirement Community in Sebring, spends weekdays as a volunteer producer at the campus’ television station.
“It’s just like he’s still at work,” his wife, Claire, says with a chuckle. “He leaves at 9 a.m., and some days he’s not home until 4 p.m.”
Virgil, 72, and Claire, 69, were teachers in the Marlington school system before retiring in the early 1990s. However, on many days it’s as if Virgil, who taught classes in science and American history, is still on the job, as he walks the quarter-mile from the couple’s home on the community’s campus to the studio.
“I’ve tried very hard to say I’ll never work on Fridays or weekends unless I absolutely have to,” he says. “That’s our time. During the week when I’m working, Claire and I eat lunch together.”
The Springers moved to Copeland Oaks in 1999, three years after the station went on the air. Virgil was asked to broaden the scope of programming, and a second career was launched. Friends and neighbors George Schreckengost, Bud Householder and Bob Burk complete the team.
“[The guys] give an awful lot of time to this,” says Claire, “but clearly they all enjoy it.”
Copeland Oaks has three channels, which all residents have access to on in-house cable. The station broadcasts around-the-clock, and features a variety of live programming, ranging from religious services to resident council meetings, exercise shows and the “New Resident Interviews” show. (All programs air four times a day. The channels play music during times when shows aren’t broadcast.)
One of the most popular programs, “Copeland Roundabout,” features a look at what’s new at Copeland Oaks, and includes profiles of people who live and work there.
Resident Mary Ebert hosts a monthly travelogue, “Where in the World is Mary Ebert?” which Virgil finds fascinating. “Her grandson told me that Mary’s been every place except the North Pole,” he says. “And that’s very close to being true.”
But station staffers also take pride in focusing on more than light-hearted fare. “Veterans Spotlight” features interviews with World War II vets, which, over the years, have included four prisoners of war, a conscientious objector and a nurse. “Outta Sight” is a reading program designed for those who have trouble seeing.
Thanks to support from the administration, trustees and residents, the station recently celebrated the grand opening of a new facility filled with close to $50,000 worth of equipment.
Being involved with the station has not only kept the Springers active, it has kept them involved in the community. “We cannot walk down the halls without someone stopping us and talking about the programs,” Virgil says.
“We feel so blessed,” he adds. “To have the studio and see that people support it so much. We’re privileged to be doing this type of thing — and having fun at the same time.”