Richard and Sandi Thalleen

Richard and Sandi Thalleen

Whether a mutual love of music or having grown up as near neighbors, to hear them talk, it is clear something special brought Richard Thalleen and Sandi Huber of Lakewood together 60 years ago.

After six decades, four children, 11 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, the couple is as close as they ever were and enjoy looking back to a time when Miramar was “way out” in the county and rent on a Sorrento Road apartment was a mere $65 a month.

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Sandi and Richard Thalleen with children Kristina, Deniese and Marc David

Richard, 80, and Sandi, 78, grew up three houses apart on Birchwood Avenue, attended duPont Middle School two years apart and later ended up at Jacksonville University at the same time.

Sandi was the only child of Clyde and Ruth Huber from Wisconsin, where she was born. The family moved to Jacksonville for her father’s new job at Wilson & Company Meatpacking on Bay Street. Sandi said that the train tracks ran right to her father’s building, transporting deliveries to and from the plant.

“When we were young. Greenridge Road was the city limits,” said Sandi. “There were nice brick homes available but homeowners were painting the red brick all kinds of colors and my dad hated that, especially when the paint started to peel.”

Although Sandi and Richard attended duPont Middle School together, Richard said the first time he really “noticed” Sandi was the day he was doing yard work outside his family’s home on Birchwood at Peachtree Circle North in the 1950s. He was up on the roof cleaning out the gutters when a young girl drove by.

“I don’t know why I did it, but I yelled at her, ‘You’re too young to be driving!’” Richard recalled. “She stopped her car in the street, got out and yelled back at me that she was quite grown up enough to be driving. Then she got back in her car and drove home. I knew who she was, but she sure wasn’t 12 years old anymore!”

Thalleen_03The Thalleens love music and both sang in the duPont student chorus that performed locally and regularly traveled to Lake City to sing at the Veterans Hospital. One of their favorite songs was “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”

Richard inherited his love of music from his parents, Nestor Jacob Thalleen and Mary (Vosburgh) Thalleen, who met and married in Rockford, Illinois. Nestor worked as a manufacturer’s representative for Sargent Manufacturing Company (hardware) which relocated him to Jacksonville in 1947. Nestor got all the hardware donated by Sargent for the original Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church (HAB).

Before their wedding, during the 1930s, the Thalleens sang and Mary was pianist for the “Singing Sweethearts of the Air” radio show in Rockford. Mary, an accomplished musician who studied at the Milwaukee Conservatory of Music, served for many years as the organist and choir director for HAB, their family church. Richard remembers Reverend Dr. Clyde B. Lipscomb who served as pastor for 26 years, from 1953 to 1970.

“When HAB burned on December 23, 2007, a plaque we donated to the church in honor of my mother was one of the few things left untouched by the fire,” he said. “Her favorite music, Handel’s Messiah, framed her name. I believe it hangs outside the choir room now,” he said.

Perhaps his mother’s love of music rubbed off. Both Richard and Sandi recall as a favorite memory the annual Spring Music Festival famously put on by Miss Anderson, the music teacher at duPont.

Thalleen_01“Miss Anderson directed a big production every year with junior high students performing. When I was in seventh grade and Richard was in ninth grade we did a play featuring “The Indian Love Call” as a solo that Richard sang,” Sandi said, adding that “The Indian Love Call” was a hit song from Broadway and film based on a famous 1924 musical, “Rose-Marie.”

“There was a wooden post with an Indian girl tied to it and Richard played the lead role of the Mounty who [in their version of the story], rescues the Indian girl…all I wanted was to play the Indian girl” she said. “When I finally got to the ninth grade I didn’t get the lead, but I was the substitute.”

Sandi was in the first graduating class of seniors from duPont in 1955 after it became a senior high school. She wanted to attend Florida State University but her father asked her to stay in Jacksonville and attend Jacksonville University. This is the part of their story where Richard lovingly describes Sandi as definitely “an only child, spoiled brat.”

“Her dad was pretty smart. He told Sandi that if she attended FSU, freshman students could not have cars. If she would agree to attend JU, at least the first year, they would buy her a car,” Richard explained.

Of course, that was a short argument. Sandi got a brand-spanking new red 1955 Buick Roadmaster Convertible, which they both agree was at least one of the reasons, if not the reason Richard fell in love with her and eventually proposed.

For high school, Richard attended Bolles Military Academy, fulfilling the dream of his father who had always wanted to attend a military academy. He graduated in 1953 and attended two years of college at Stetson University, intending to become a minister. In 1955, however, he and a college buddy heard about the Alaska Homestead Act (1898-1988) and decided they would head north.

“We paid $50 for a car and took off driving to Alaska. We were going to claim homesteads,” he said. “We made it as far as Kansas where our car broke down and our parents caught up with us. I ended up back in Jacksonville, enrolling at JU…at exactly the same time Sandi was there.”

The couple married in 1956 at Southside Presbyterian Church, Sandi’s home church, and lived in an apartment on Sorrento Road. In 1959 they bought a home on Randy Road in San Souci where they welcomed their two daughters, Sandra Deniese Garland (Jim) of Kissimmee, who have two children, and Kristina Turner of Louisiana, who has three children.

After Hurricane Dora in 1964 they moved to Daytona so Richard could take a management job with Eckerd’s Drugs, followed by two years with Walgreen’s. They also started a home office supply/printing business. Sandi gave birth to two sons in Daytona: Michael and Marc. Michael is married to Lisa and they have three children; Marc and his wife Jennifer have a son, Joey.

In 1976 the Thalleens returned to Jacksonville and bought their Lakewood home, a 1950 bungalow. They continued to operate their home office supply and printing business until 2003, then Richard worked for IRS Customer Service at the Independent Life Building (now Wells Fargo) until his retirement in July 2015.

Lifelong volunteers, the Thalleens focus on charity and community activities with their church, All Saints Episcopal. They coordinated the Jacksonville Food Drive, gathering area churches’ food donations for 10 years because they strongly believe that no one should go hungry. They visit and help several seniors now residing at Taylor Manor. They support AMVETS, Wounded Warriors, City Rescue Mission and Sulzbacher Center.

Traveling the U.S. in their RV and getting deliberately lost on road trips to discover out-of-the-way places may be past adventures, but the couple now equally enjoy home projects. They cook and bake together and have taught themselves to make homemade lemon curd and apple butter. They love dining at their favorite restaurants, Stonewood Grill or Athens Café and look forward to a family reunion in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary this year.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News
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