Never Too Old: Riverside man trades technology for the arts

Never Too Old: Riverside man trades technology for the arts
Glenn Jones and Ron Episcopo at their 1917 home in Riverside

At a time when his peers were amassing pension funds and looking toward retirement, Ron Episcopo bailed out of Corporate America – without a golden parachute – to pursue a lifelong dream.

“I was the first person in my family to graduate from high school or go to college,” said the Riverside resident. “When I told my parents I was going to college to study art, they didn’t say no, but they made it difficult. So, I got a degree in business.”

Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Episcopo worked in software consulting for Lexis Nexis, traveling for 16 years to train attorneys in legal research systems. He relocated to Florida in the late 1970s and managed 17 representatives for his company. 

Still drawn to art and design, Episcopo hit the re-set button in his 60s, got a degree in interior design, and took the leap to open his own design firm in Boca Raton.

In another life change, he met Glenn Jones online and they were, coincidentally, living in the same condominium complex. “There was a lake between us at the condos; I could see his front door!” laughed Episcopo. When they got together for a glass of wine, Episcopo’s little poodle Ebony (“a universal hater”) curled up in Jones’ lap – it was the seal of approval. Together ever since, they married in Boston seven years ago. It was Jones who encouraged Episcopo to pursue his artistic dreams and enter his first juried art exhibition at the age of 66.

“I had always been afraid to do it. These were my babies, and I didn’t want anyone criticizing them,” he explained. “But, I got accepted and even won third place! In the next show, I won first place and the piece sold. Then the next show I got first place, Best in Show, and it sold! My favorite medium is mixed – photographs with layering of tissue paper – something that stimulates the emotions. A bit edgy.”

The road to Riverside came through Jones, who had undergone several back surgeries, and woke up two years ago in Pompano stating, “This is not where I want to die. I want a new experience.”

Having been to Jacksonville several times on business, Episcopo suggested they give it a try. After selling their home in South Florida, they became temporarily homeless when a house they had a contract on in Jacksonville fell through. They booked reservations at the Riverdale Inn, looked at 30 (yes, 30) houses with their realtor, before falling in love with Riverside and their “forever home” on Osceola Street.

Their recently renovated 100-year-old home (nicknamed “Portobello” by Jones for its overhanging red roof, which reminds him of a mushroom) showcases their dedication to preserving the architecture and history of the area and reflects their eclectic, artistic “design aesthetic” in every nook and cranny.

The oak floors gleam, the chandeliers sparkle as they did in the 1930s. The juxtaposition of eBay purchases, antiques, “ridiculously expensive” dining chairs with a yard-sale stool purchased for $1 and upholstered with a Bold Bean coffee sack, as well as various sculptures and Episcopo’s artwork offer plenty of visual delights and many amusing stories of acquisition.

Jones and Episcopo are active in the community. Episcopo is busy creating art, “bringing some beauty into the world,” he said. As event planner for the Jacksonville Artists Guild, he is co-coordinating Chords of Unity, a juried art exhibit at Unity Plaza on Saturday, June 3.

Meanwhile, Jones stays busy rocking babies at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Nicknamed “the baby whisperer” by Wolfson nurses for his uncanny ability to calm agitated newborns, Jones’ soothing manner works magic on screaming infants just as his calm demeanor worked on a cantankerous little poodle 11 years ago when he met Episcopo. There has only been one baby, so far, he has not tamed.

Now at age 70, Episcopo is living his youthful dreams. An exhibiting artist, he has an active investment in the Jacksonville arts community, a home that is a work of art, a life partner and supporter in Jones, as well as the energy and enthusiasm for the next chapter of life, which includes Rufus, their 11-year-old Labradoodle named after Jones’ dad. “He doesn’t look like my dad, but he looks like a Rufus,” said Jones. And, of course, Ebony, the “universal hater,” now blind and deaf at age 17.

“Years ago, I won an Erik Wahl painting at a corporate event and I didn’t really want it. Only later did I find out that it was valuable,” said Episcopo. “Then I read Wahl’s book “Un-think” and it inspired me. It focuses on helping you to un-think all the bad things you’ve learned in life and look at things a different way. It’s never too late.”

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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