Role Models - Making Connections and Shaping Generations
By Lottie Nilsen / January - February 2012

Phyllis Simon of Davie is a financial planner, wife, mother of two, and grandmother of three. Whether she knows it or not, the Davie woman is also a role model for her daughter, Sonni Simon Weiselberg.

"She is the hardest working mother, ever," said Parkland's Weiselberg. "(When I was) growing up, she always made sure my brother and I went to camp, sports, extra-curricular activities, Hebrew school -- everything. She always made do, and told us it wasn't the quantity of time we spent together, but the quality. She worked hard, kept a home and always made sure she looked good."

Not surprisingly, a Google search for America's collective role models reveals names such as Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, each for their work ethic, generosity, innovation and ability to lead and inspire.

But a survey of locals reveals a far more intimate list of role models: parents and family members, personal friends and connections, each of whom solidly reflects the definition of a role model as a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.
Case in point, Parkland Mayor Michael Udine cites his role models as "my parents, Morey and Toby Udine. Married 50 years, generous, hard workers, always put family first."

Another perspective is provided by James P. Krehbiel, a licensed professional counselor and contributor to, a forum for information on parenting, health and relationships. "Role models are the people who come into our lives in a personal manner and enrich our experience," he wrote. "They give advice, teach, coach, encourage, support and protect those within their sphere of influence. They are the parents, friends, neighbors, and community members that we value. They represent ‘acts of grace.' "

Parkland's Ellen Van Olden says her sister Beth, a nurse in Rhode Island, is both her role model and best friend. "She has always been there for me and is loyal, truthful, caring, smart and my supporter," said Van Olden. "I can always confide in her and she in me. I feel that my sister is a great role model because she has not always been that way but has earned that right and is a person that I look up to. She possesses the qualities that make you want to be a better person. Our dad has always taught us that you can be anyone or anything you want, but my sister showed me what courage really is."

While many people count teachers among their role models, Laura Orlove, an elementary school teacher herself in Boynton Beach, lists her parents, Doris and the late Harvey Kesten of Cape Cod, Massachusetts for a variety of reasons, "They made sure that school and learning were important. They gave me global experiences, so I would appreciate other cultures, even though we didn't travel to other countries. They modeled good morals and values and expected the same from me. And they included me in giving back to others in the community and therefore modeled the importance of charity."

For some, role models inspire us to make small changes that can add up to life changes. This was the case for Wyland Green Living Fair founder David Etzler of Boca Raton, whose role model is Greg Horn, former CEO of General Nutrition Centers. "A few years ago, a casual conversation we had about water wound up changing my life and my business," said Etzler. "Greg educated me about numerous toxicities that exist in everything from bottled water to standard cleaning products. What started as a five-minute conversation turned into a two-hour discussion and education that inspired me to make changes."

As a result, Etzler changed his entire business three years ago and created the Wyland Living Green Fair to share his passion for green living.

Krehbiel wrote, "As adults, we may have role models who meet our needs in a way that encourages and supports us in unique ways. A parent, friend, relative, or acquaintance may serve us by helping provide meaning and purpose for our lives. This is what experiencing a sense of community is all about."

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