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Local Boomers Dare to Achieve

Kathi Caldwell-Hopper - February 20, 2012

Hanging off a cliff to get a perfect photo. Racing cars and driving defensively in the snow. Surging on, year after year, in NH’s winter woods on snowshoes.

These are a few of the lifestyles of people who just don’t quit. Reaching the age of 50 and stepping into the years when convention dictates that we slow down, has not greatly affected daring baby boomers. They don’t consider themselves daring; they are just doing what they love with no plans of giving up due to the passing years.

Life, for Jay Philbrick, who owns Philbrick Photography with his wife Vicki, is one big creative venture. With a unique vision, Jay goes wherever necessary to get the images he wishes. Known throughout NH and beyond for stunning and unusual wedding photography, Jay and Vicki reside in the Conway area but travel far and wide for wedding photography assignments and other shoots.

“I’ve been interested in photography my whole life,” Jay says. “At first, I used photography as a way to record rock climbing.”

A rock climber for years, Jay has worked as an instructor in the sport in many locations around the world. Thus, taking a few risks to get the shots he envisions isn’t quite so difficult as it might be for others.

“When digital photography came out, I was intrigued with the new technology. It meant I didn’t have to use rolls and rolls of film to capture what I wanted. Then about 10 years ago, I got into the professional aspect of photography. I started shooting weddings by accident when my brother asked me to photograph my niece’s wedding,” he adds.

Soon Jay was hooked on wedding photography, not an easy profession to master. A Portland, Maine photographer mentored Jay and helped him prepare for the role of wedding photographer. “The first wedding I did was terrifying,” Jay recalls. “But the more weddings I shot, I worked into it and it got easier.”

Always interested in landscape photography, Jay found his interest shifting to weddings. “It got to the point where I couldn’t do landscape photos unless their was a person in them. Then it had to be a bride. For our 25th wedding anniversary, Vicki and I went to Tuscany. While we were there, we hired models for bridal landscape photos we shot.”

Jay loves working with people and his work encompasses senior photos, families and model studio shots.

Perhaps it was Jay’s past career as an Air Force pilot that prepped him for one particular series of photos for which he’s won awards. And most likely his work and experience as a rock climber helped a lot too. A few years ago, Jay was hired to photograph a couple’s wedding. Jay says, “They mentioned they were rock climbers and I asked them if they were up for an exciting day-after the wedding photo session. They were interested and that’s how the cliff shots of the couple came about.”

The photos Jay refers to are of a bride and groom dressed in their wedding finery, perched on a rock outcropping on Cathedral Ledge in the Conway area. The photos are dramatic and quite daring, as well as beautiful. The pictures took the wedding world by storm when Jay published them. Awards followed; interest in the cliff shots widened to the western United States and elsewhere.

“I guess because of being an Air Force pilot and a rock climber, I do have a bit of an adventurous streak in me!” Jay muses. Indeed, the cliff shots required a photographer who was not afraid of heights, and understood rock climbing and could work under daring conditions. One would assume the photographer taking such an assignment would be a physically fit 25 year old. Although age 50 has come and gone for Jay, he keeps physically active and loves the outdoors. This, coupled with his willingness to do what it takes to get beautiful photographs that reflect his artistic vision, certainly qualifies him as a daring boomer.

“If I can do something like getting the couple on the side of the cliff safely, I love the challenge of the shot. The whole process is rewarding. I want to keep pursuing photography and doing more creative concept-oriented work in the future.”

For those who live in NH year round, driving on snowy winter roads can provide quite a challenge. While not everyone is daring enough to hang off a cliff to get a great photo, most of us face occasional hair-raising winter driving.

Some people are concerned enough about their driving skills that they decide it’s time to take a refresher course or to learn more about driving on snowy roads. That’s where Team O’Neill Rally School and Car Control Center comes in and where the extreme driving skills of Tim O’Neill meet the challenge.

Tim owns and operates a most unusual driving school in snowy Lisbon, NH. The area is a natural for providing the snow necessary to teach students to drive in extreme winter conditions. However, Tim operates the school year round and offers something for every driver whether winter or summer.

“I started out as a mechanic and it’s all I wanted to do. I went into the Air Force where I was a mechanic. When I got out all my friends were racing. I wasn’t interested in racing, but I found the idea of working on race cars attractive,” Tim recalls.

It wasn’t long before the other racecar mechanics were urging Tim to race as well. “I built my own race car; I liked foreign cars. In 1982 I started racing local stock cars. By 1985 I had my own garage because I realized I needed to own a shop to make money to continue racing. I raced nationally in the late 1980s. I did pretty well and I was a VW factory production driver. I got sponsorships and I raced hard until 1992. I won a lot of races; I wanted to eventually be a world champion and race in Europe.”

However, once in Europe, Tim faced the reality of the time and money it would take to achieve that dream. “And I really wanted to have a place in the woods where I could teach people to drive. I love to teach,” he adds.

In 1998 Tim found the property that would soon house his driving school/business. The property was an old gravel pit with a series of roads on it; perfect for road courses to teach driving skills. “I signed a lease and built the business up from nothing,” Tim recalls.

Age makes little difference to Tim when it comes to realizing a dream. He could have slid into working for any car company as a skilled mechanic, but risk taking is a part of his nature as it was long ago when he began racing cars.

While the willingness to take a few risks is in his make up, Tim stresses safety first, second and third at his driving school. “We run winter safe schools on weekends,” he explains. “You bring your own car and we teach you how to get out of skids…and how to avoid them in the first place. The class draws some locals, but most customers come from outside of the area. The ages of students are all over the place, from teens to over 75.”

People, according to Tim, want to have confidence when driving. A small percentage of people go on to race and many who attend the school are in the security business. Their jobs are to protect government and military personnel.

When asked what keeps Tim working when he could pull back, he answers, “That is definitely a hard question. The economy it tough, as we all know. But the school is really about the impact we have on our little part of the world. By staying in business we keep the message alive that driver training is important. We need to know how cars work. In the old days, people knew their cars and worked on fixing their own vehicles. There is less of that now. I guess I have a passion to save the world through driver training!”

Tim says the number-one thing he tells drivers it to always watch the road conditions. Pay attention; adjust speed to the road conditions. Watch the temperature and wind direction and conditions such as melting and refreezing ice. Because he lives in an area where the moose population adds to driving woes, Tim adds that drives should pay attention for animals in the road. “If you can’t avoid hitting something, look at where you want the car to go, not at what you are hitting.”

The driving school offers much more than safe driving classes. Guests can take rally classes for one or more days, among the offerings at Team O’Neill. For information visit

Staying active is a way of life for two members of the Pasquaney Snowshoe Club in the Newfound Lake area. While the members of the club – most in their 50s and 60s – are active and enjoy the hikes and snowshoe treks offered each month by the club, two members stand out as examples of staying active and not letting age interfere with living.

Bert Hirtle of the Newfound area knows how important physical fitness is. He trained hard in his youth in order to be a member of the elite 10th Mountain Division that fought in World War II. (Activated in 1943 at the height of World War II, the 10th Mountain Division fought in the mountains of Italy in some of the roughest terrain in that country. Created as a unique mountain warfare unit, Division members were trained to fight under harsh terrain and weather conditions.)

Modest about his achievements, Bert says simply, “We trained in Colorado and then we fought to get the Germans out of Italy during the war.”

As the years passed, Bert stayed active and he credits physical fitness as a key to his longevity. “I’ve been hiking since World War II. After retiring to NH, Bert and his wife joined the Pasquaney Snowshoe Club. “It’s a nice bunch of people,” he says. “The hikes and snowshoe treks are interesting and not too difficult. You don’t need to be an athlete to go on the trips.”

Fellow club member Stuart Broderic was born in 1922 and has been active all his life. He would certainly qualify as a daring boomer/senior citizen because he has skied since he taught himself the sport as a youngster.

“I met my wife in Europe when we were both on a skiing trip,” Stuart recalls. “We skied Tuckerman’s Ravine every spring for years and I have been a member of the AMC for years. I’ve climbed all the 4,000 footers and I have always stayed active.”

Stuart’s wife was secretary of the snowshoe club for a number of years and the couple enjoyed snowshoeing, hiking and helping with club events. Stuart also belongs to a Tuesday hiking group and could probably hike faster than many younger folks!

One needn’t be an international dare devil to qualify for the title Daring Boomer. One must simply stay active, stay healthy and embrace life, no matter what age. 

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