Touchdown, Wilmington, North Carolina
written by Jamie Penn
Frank Herzog, renowned announcer for the Washington Redskins, was as zealous and methodical about his retirement choice as he was about his 25-year career.
Most long-time football fans would know the voice responsible for the phrase, “Touchdown, Redskins!” For nearly a decade, play-by-play announcer, and now Wilmington resident, Frank Herzog, leveraged the heart and spirit that filled a roaring stadium full of thousands upon thousands of Washington Redskins fans. This year, Herzog was inducted into the Washington, D.C. Hall of Fame for his years as the play-by-play ring-leader who pulled together the famous radio trio—Herzog, Sonny Jurgensen, and Sam Huff. Long-time Redskins running back, John Riggins, reminiscing on WTOP’s Herzog tribute in 2010, said that the trio is “emblemized in everybody’s mind for the rest of their lives.”
Herzog left the announcers’ booth for the newsroom in 2004 when he jumped into broadcast at WTOP in D.C. In 2010, he decided he was ready for the next phase. Retirement, he said, couldn’t have come soon enough. “When everybody started calling me a legend, I knew it was time to get out,” he says with a chuckle.
As one can either remember or imagine, listening to Frank Herzog talk is like listening to your favorite story. Every word is engaging – and him telling the story of what came next was no different.
“We were very methodical in our approach to retirement,” says Herzog. He and his wife, Sharon, weren’t taking “the rest of their lives” lightly. They both wanted to choose a forever place—a home base that mirrored what they wanted out of retirement.
They read articles and books on the subject, and signed up for one of several Ideal-LIVING Expos held all over the East Coast throughout the year. Then, they sat down and wrote it all out.
First, they made a list of all the cities in which they thought they might want to retire. They started with cities in Florida, an obvious choice for retirees, then worked their way up the East Coast. Venice, Sarasota, Savannah, Charleston, Beaufort, Columbia, Raleigh, and finally, Wilmington were some of the Southeastern cities on their retirement tour.
Then, they wrote a list of their priorities, both current ones and those they could imagine forming down the road, like advanced education opportunities, medical care, air travel, shopping, access to the beach, and a place where they could experience all four seasons.
Finally, they planned their tour. “Before we started checking out places, we went to the Expo [Ideal-LIVING Retirement Expo] in Tysons Corner.” Herzog says. “We were so overwhelmed!” They signed up for everything, sat in on all of the talks, and visited every booth. “It was too much,” he says. “We went to another one somewhere in the middle of our search, and it was much better. We stuck to only the booths and talks that applied to our interests. This method was much more beneficial.”
On their city tour, the Herzogs had one rule: They both had veto power. If one person wasn’t satisfied, they took that location off the list immediately. Apparently a well-matched couple, the veto power was rarely used. Along the way, they implemented a strategy that would help them get to their decision much faster. In each of the cities they visited, they would connect with a realtor in the area. After full disclosure and an offer of lunch and gas money, they would spend the day with the realtor to get a local perspective of what it’s like to be a homeowner in the area.
“This approach was priceless,” Herzog says. And this is how the Herzogs landed in Magnolia Greens in Wilmington, NC.
After setting up a weekend tour in a community close to Magnolia Greens, they knew that while they loved Wilmington, there was something missing in the neighborhood they were touring. So, they asked the realtor that was showing them around, “What else?” Then they found it. Magnolia Greens was the place.
“It had everything on our list,” Herzog remembers. “Lots of activity, a great club, pools, golf, but slightly outside of town, 30 minutes from three beaches, two great colleges—UNCW and Cape Fear Community College. Downtown Wilmington is just the right size for us; there are big box stores close by, and great shopping spots all over Wilmington. NHRMC is a fantastic hospital, and we’re only 20 minutes from the airport.”
Herzog says being in the Wilmington area has been a welcome shift from living in D.C. There isn’t any traffic, no buzz of the big city life, and lots of great friendships. “I had a great career, but I didn’t have time for friends,” he says.
From days spent on the beach, river, and ocean tours by boat, to time in town and with friends around the table, the Herzogs are right where they wanted to be.
The Herzogs love the variety in the neighborhood. They weren’t looking for a 55-plus community, but instead wanted to be surrounded by all of it—young families just getting started, folks in retirement, and everything in between. “I can’t imagine living in a place without children running around,” Herzog says, adding that it’s great incentive for his kids and grandkids to come down to visit.
They often head to the clubhouse for trivia night, and Herzog says the neighbors hate to see Sharon coming. “She’s a Jeopardy queen. She’s just too smart,” he points out, referring to her on our phone call as his “coach” when she chimes in in the background.
Serious foodies, one of their favorite things to do is head to their favorite dining spots, like the Brasserie near Wrightsville Beach, Catch, or RX, then head to the theatre at Thalian Hall. “We recently saw this amazing Shakespeare spoof of Measure By Measure, put on by the LGBT community. The guy from the Village People was in it,” he notes. “It was really well done. It’s the kind of thing we thought we’d miss. For a much smaller town, Wilmington does a great job keeping up culturally. Oh, and the movies at Thalian, we love the movies they bring in,” Herzog says.
From days spent on the beach, river, and ocean tours by boat, to time in town and with friends around the table, the Herzogs are right where they wanted to be. “Sometimes, Sharon and I sit out on the back deck with a drink in the evening,” Herzog says, “and we look around at our beautiful house and our great little neighborhood, and we say, ‘we’re so lucky’. It’s a really good feeling.”