By Tracey Palmer
If you could find a way to relieve your stress, build your confidence, ignite your creativity and meet new people who share your interests, would you do it? If you said yes, then get a hobby! Research shows that hobbies can complement your work life and enhance your professional abilities. People with hobbies can be better at coming up with creative solutions for work-related problems. They even seem more resilient in stressful situations. Simply put, hobbies are good for you—and make you feel good.
Read on to meet Stonehill alumni who have embraced the importance of hobbies. Their part-time passions are as diverse and interesting as they are.
When Christa-Lynn Smith ’11 (right) was 7, she and her sister took their very first plane ride to visit cousins in Jacksonville, Fla., where she also bought her first postcard. “It had a funny looking cat on it that said, ‘Laid Back and Loving It,’” Smith recalls. “I’m sure I thought it was hilarious as a 7-year-old!” Back then, she never imagined that 20 years later she’d still be collecting postcards.
Today Smith has hundreds, from cities and towns in Massachusetts and from Australia to Kyrgyzstan. “My dad travels all over the country for work and has helped me collect most of the states I have today,” says Smith, who has cards from 45 U.S. states (she’s missing Kansas, North Dakota, Mississippi, South Carolina and Iowa) and 38 countries (16 of which she’s visited). “It’s pretty amazing to spread out my cards and see how far the people in my life have traveled. It makes the world seem so much smaller.
My friends and family have touched almost every corner of the globe.”
Smith is an analyst at CVS Health. Her hobby is completely different from her job, but her postcard passion is well known at work. “I definitely have a few postcards hanging up in my cube, and I’m constantly badgering coworkers to bring me back a postcard from their travels.”
The only continent Smith doesn’t have a card from is Antarctica—so if you live there, feel free to send her one.
As a child, Rosemarie (Anzalone) Hollandsworth ’73 loved animals. But unlike most children, Hollandsworth began early on taking action to ensure their welfare. It started with joining animal welfare groups, adopting rescue cats and eventually becoming a vegetarian.
After Stonehill, Hollandsworth taught elementary school for 23 years. For the last 18, she’s worked in audiology, testing adults’ hearing and fitting hearing aids. All the while she never stopped fighting for animal rights. She joined the initiative to close the Greyhound Racetrack in Massachusetts and worked with the Humane Society on last year’s Farm Bill ballot question. Most recently, Hollandsworth founded an issues coalition called the Companion Animal Protection Act of Massachusetts (CAPA-MA).
“I learned of the plight of shelter animals and the high kill rate in this country of innocent homeless pets,” she says. “I was appalled at the euthanasia statistics—or lack thereof due to non-reporting requirements. Our present shelter bylaws do not mandate reporting or rescue access.” While some shelters do report, CAPA-MA would like to see a mandatory monthly and yearly reporting law for shelters. “I want to help combat this senseless killing of millions of animals.”
Thanks to her passion for animals, Hollandsworth says she found her voice. “I always tended to get upset about social injustices, but now I’ve put words into action. And I have 1,000 members concerned with me!”
Whitney Wemett’s hobby takes her a hundred feet underwater—with strange creatures—sometimes at night. It gets scary, but she loves the thrill.
“One of my favorite things about scuba diving is night dives,” says Wemett ’16. “I did a week-long trip in the Caribbean last year, and we did a night dive off the boat where we brought a black light down, illuminating all the bioluminescence in the water. It was truly spectacular.”
The first time Wemett ever dove, she was studying in Australia. As a minor in environmental studies, she always loved the outdoors. Diving at the Great Barrier Reef, she discovered a passion for marine conservation.
“As a scuba diver, I’ve developed a personal connection to the ocean, because I see the harm done to it firsthand while underwater.”
Last fall, Wemett took her hobby a step further and spent two months in Madagascar as a marine conservation research volunteer. She learned to survey the reefs for biodiversity, reef health, global climate change and anthropogenic concerns, and she even took part in dives to monitor the health of sea turtles.
“My favorite part is seeing new creatures,” Wemett says. “The weirder the better! This hobby has granted me the opportunity to discover different places around the world, both above and below water, that I never would have imagined I would see.”
Wemett currently works in public accounting, but she hopes to transition her hobby into a full-time career in coastal zone management someday, spending her days (and nights) protecting our planet’s oceans.
Marissa Antosh ’06 got her first typewriter on her 21st birthday—a Smith Corona circa 1913—and the rest, as they say, is history. At the time, Antosh was a Stonehill art major, incorporating typewritten text into her artwork. She immediately came to appreciate the mechanics of the old machines and started collecting red ones because, well, it’s her favorite color.
“My undergraduate degree in English and art definitely shaped my job choice,” says Antosh, who works as a youth librarian at the Norfolk Public Library. “My hobby is complementary. Typewriters are like mini-printing presses for your desk.”
If you visit the Norfolk library, you might see Antosh’s typewriters, which are sometimes on display. Her oldest one is from 1892. “I’m running my own archive,” she says. “I find it funny—and a tiny bit sad—that most kids have no idea what they are.”
Antosh thinks it’s important to have a hobby, maybe three or four. She also knits, spins yarn and makes books. “I find hobbies to be enriching and fun, and they make for connections and conversation.” What’s the best part of collecting typewriters for Antosh? She says it’s getting the “You collect what?” reaction.
Eileen Cosgrove Cusack ’85 graduated with a degree in finance and worked in the field through the dot.com era. At the same time, she also did community theater and joined an a cappella group, “just for fun”—or so she thought.
After having three kids in four years and faced with a new medical diagnosis, Cusack realized that the long hours of her Boston finance job no longer made sense. That’s when she decided to turn her hobby into a job.
“My musical interests led me to a career change and a chance at meaningful work even while raising three children and dealing with rheumatoid arthritis (RA),” she says.
Initially, Cusack sang in the choir and at weddings at St. Mary’s Church in Mansfield. She was then hired to teach music part-time to St. Mary’s Catholic School elementary students and has been there for over 15 years. Meanwhile, her a cappella group, Jazz Up Your Party, was getting hired to perform at events and was becoming popular during the holiday season, singing as fully costumed Christmas carolers. (Perhaps you’ve seen them at Patriot Place, Legacy Place or Briggs Nursery as you’ve done your holiday shopping!)
Today, Cusack’s hobby sustains her financially and spiritually. Her voice never fails her, she says. “I can sing when I can’t speak or when I have strep throat. I can sing when I’m standing in 20 degree snowy weather and can’t feel my feet or fingers. Even though my RA has limited me in several ways, my voice grows stronger with each year!”
Cusack advises, “If you stay true to your passions and do what you like, you will have a rewarding life.”
Ken Staffey ’93 works in medical sales, but he’s also an amateur historian and storyteller. His hobby is posting pictures he’s taken of old houses on Instagram. “I realized there’s so much amazing history all around us and much of it can be told with the houses we live in.”
Over the years, Staffey has learned lots of history trivia. For instance, the name of the New Jersey city Newark, might have been shortened from New Ark of the Covenant. In Connecticut, Westport was once known for its prize onions; Danbury was built on the hat making industry; and New London was the world’s third busiest whaling port, after Nantucket and New Bedford.
According to Staffey, one of the best parts of his hobby is the people from all over the world he’s connected with—he has almost 11,000 followers. Some of the followers who regularly like and comment on his photos are in places as far away as Russia, Iran and Turkey. Of telling these house stories, he has found that people are more alike than different. “In the end, whether they live in a grand mansion or a simple home, most people are working to have a better life for themselves and their families,” Staffey says.
It was 1984. Bruce Springsteen had just released Born in the USA. And Joseph Tucker ’88 suddenly knew he wanted to write songs and learn to play acoustic guitar. He’s been at it for over 30 years.
In the 1990s, Tucker was the drummer for a band called Keiser Sose, but he never wanted to make it a career. Still, he was inspired to write songs on his guitar that expressed his strong Christian faith.
These days, when he’s not performing at open mic nights in New York, Tucker is a volunteer support group facilitator, putting to good use the psychology degree he earned at Stonehill.
He feels his hobby complements his work because he believes music can be a therapeutic and a creative outlet. “My hobby makes life more worthwhile and meaningful,” he says. “The best part: It brings joy to others.”
The idea for Mary (Harrington) Hart’s hobby came to her in a dream. While she slept, Hart ’94 envisioned a story about an event planner trapped in a haunted house who has to figure out how to escape to survive. When Hart woke, she knew she had to write a novel.
Hart began writing in 2013 and finished the first draft of her thriller Some Horrific Evening this past November during NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month.
As a marketing content manager by trade, Hart writes white papers and blog posts and also creates infographics. She enjoys novel writing because it’s more creative than her daily work.
“Letting my imagination run wild with the story and seeing where it goes is sometimes very surprising, even as I’m typing away,” she reveals. “I had a few characters who were going to have a certain fate, but that changed as I was writing.”
Hart is currently revising her manuscript and then plans to send out queries to agents. “I’ve learned that I can actually complete a goal I set for myself in writing and completing this book,” she says. With a little luck, Hart’s hobby might turn into something more.
George Allen ’79 learned to play trumpet in Easton in the fourth grade. He played all the way through high school and even started a pep band at Stonehill. It’s been a decades-long hobby, but lately it’s taken on more meaning in his life and in the lives of many others.
When Allen retired from the Easton Police Department, he began playing taps at police officers’ funerals. He started because he had heard a “fake bugle” being used. (A “fake bugle” contains a digital sound device. It’s not actually played live.) In Allen’s opinion, this was unacceptable for the men and women who died serving others.
After hearing Allen play at a funeral, a U.S. Marine Corps officer invited him to join the Marine Corps League (Lt. Brian McPhillips detachment #1115) and play at their funerals. Allen was never a Marine and never served in the military, so he was extremely honored. “Since then I’ve done countless funerals and wakes,” says Allen. “I’ve provided taps for WWII vets and Iraq war vets and everything in between.” Allen has also played at the Bourne National Cemetery’s No Vet Forgotten program and at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball every year.
Allen, who now works part-time as a Stonehill police officer, has endured many sad and difficult ceremonies. He remembers a stretch where he played at four in one week. But he continues to play for veterans, because it’s his way of thanking them for their service to our country. “The families’ reaction after the service is all the thanks I need,” he says.
Some people enjoy knitting, others collect stamps. Daniel Hallinan ’63 built a lighthouse. And we’re not talking about a table-top model. This is a full-scale replica of the Nobska Point Lighthouse in Woods Hole—only it’s one-and-half inches taller. Fourteen feet across at the base, over thirty feet tall, Hallinan’s lighthouse sits next to his house in East Falmouth. Made of 25,000 hand-laid bricks, it took six years to complete.
So why build a lighthouse? “I get that all the time,” says Hallinan. “I have no idea. I just have to be doing something.” A retired commercial airline pilot, Hallinan has also tried his hand as a lumberjack and commercial fisherman. The father of five grown children says he’s always been handy and busy.
Without any construction experience, Hallinan built his first house by himself. (He didn’t want a mortgage.) On his current property, he has nine outbuildings he’s either built or renovated, including a two-bay garage with a vehicle lift, a shed for his 1850s doctor’s buggy and two generator sheds. His 18 by 24 foot pool house features a model steam train that runs around the ceiling and circles outside through a tunnel into the lighthouse and back. Hallinan lives off the grid in his two-story barn, in a room he’s made to look like a stateroom on a U.S. Navy destroyer. (Hallinan served for four years.)
Of course, the light on Hallinan’s lighthouse works, rotating once every eight seconds. Within minutes of the first time he turned it on, a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter showed up and flew over at about 50 feet. “You can imagine what they said when they saw it,” Hallinan says with a chuckle.