A Zest for Life Profile

Phil Starr was introduced to dancing when he was 16 years old, by his wise mother. He suspects that her motivation was to ensure she always had a dance partner. However, in her infinite wisdom she raised a young man who would make his dancing-inclined wife very happy one day.

Phil and Barry Starr

Phil and Barry Starr

That day came 55 years ago in 1958 when Phil was asked to teach his younger brother and his fiancé how to cha cha before their wedding in 1959. Friends–and their girlfriends–also wanted to learn, which left Phil the only person in the group without a partner. A friend’s younger sister, Barry, was asked to be Phil’s blind date. Even though Barry brought to the dance lesson her college roommates, she was the one who had the dance talent who caught Phil’s eye, and his heart.

Phil’s father was active in insuring the Ringling Brothers’ Circus, which required frequent trips to Sarasota and on one trip he acquired several homes on Longboat Key as an investment.

Phil and Barry danced their way through the courtship and Phil popped the question while attending a chaperoned house party at his parent’s home on Longboat Key.

After their marriage in 1960 Phil and Barry lived an active life in their Kansas City community, participating in their childrens’ school, their church, and the Boy Scouts. Phil was awarded the Silver Antelope, the highest volunteer award given by the Regional Board of the Boy Scouts of America. As an Eagle Scout Phil enrolled his sons in the Boy Scouts when they reached the proper age, and both sons and three grandsons also became Eagle Scouts.

Life happened, their children grew, and they began to find other ways to share their love of dancing. They started teaching foxtrot, waltz, tango, rhumba, and swing to a group of 10 friends in their basement. What started as a small group ended up as a group of 30. They added sizzle to the experience by capping off a 10-week course with a black tie dance party with live music at their country club.

Phil and Barry Starr ready for a dance competition.

Phil and Barry Starr ready for a dance competition.

In 1982, after a severe bout of pneumonia, Phil and Barry followed doctor’s orders of sunshine and relaxation by spending a month at the beachfront home of his parents on Longboat Key. After their return to Kansas City they enrolled in serious dance classes with a professional dance teacher couple John and Diana Berry. Lessons three times a week gave them plenty of exercise and eventually they entered dance competitions around the United States including the Sam Sodano’s Ohio Star Ball made famous by the annual PBS TV show. At one point they were coached by an English ballroom champion when he visited the Berry Dance Studio in Kansas City.

Phil retired in 1991 and he and Barry changed their legal residence to Longboat Key Florida in 2000. When friends moved into a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in 2011, they were urged to do the same. Although they didn’t think they were ready for such a place, their minds changed when they met current residents and sampled the many programs at Plymouth Harbor. They took the plunge. And “we haven’t looked back” says Phil. There is more to do, but freedom to do nothing, and the food is like eating on a cruise ship–all you need and then even more.

Of course their activity is not confined to within the campus of Plymouth Harbor. The Starrs enjoy dining at Euphemia Haye on Longboat Key, the Salty Dog on New Pass, and Andrea’s on Siesta Road. They make it a point to visit Mote Marine Aquarium as well as to attend the ballet, the opera, and the symphony–all very close to Plymouth Harbor.

Art is a particular interest of theirs as they are avid collectors of glass sculptures–and we don’t mean just nice paperweights. They have become acquainted with and have collected work by some of the most renowned glass artists of our time. Their apartment is beautifully designed to show off each work of art and they enthusiastically share the story behind each treasure with joy.

Two of the Starr's beloved glass sculptures.

Two of the Starr's beloved glass sculptures.

The Starrs say they couldn’t be happier with their lives at Plymouth Harbor. They are looking forward to more dancing opportunities in the near future as a new dance floor is planned for the updated Wellness Center and funds are being donated to buy a portable dance floor for various locations, including the dining room and the outside pool area. All this dancing must be modified as Barry had two back surgeries, which have disturbed her sense of balance. But dancing skills, like riding a bicycle, aren’t easily forgotten. Phil and Barry believe dancing is a good exercise activity and they hope to participate fully.