Richard Samay jokingly recalls the night a few years ago when, while visiting Heritage Village, he and his family had to be rescued after they got locked in after closing time. That didn’t deter the Samays from going back a few weeks later.
At the time, both he and his wife Jan were looking to volunteer somewhere part time.
While visiting Heritage Village a second time a volunteer suggested the couple consider helping out. Samay said his initial vision of volunteering a few hours a month has turned into donating his time to the village four days a week.
Because of Richard’s variety of skills, he has become a “lead volunteer” with the maintenance team. In fact, volunteering for the Samays has become a family affair: Jan does interpretation on the weekends at the McMullen Coachman Log Cabin and their daughter Susan and two grandchildren Haley and Austin volunteer on weekends and during special events, like the Country Jubilee and the Folk Festival.
Richard lives in St. Petersburg and spent years working in computer tech support and repair for both St. Petersburg College and the Pinellas County school system before retiring.
While it may seem odd that he now deals with woodworking and restoration, he is a man of many skills and his passion for woodworking is one he turns to for relaxation. He is a member of the Suncoast Woodcarvers and the St. Petersburg Woodworking Guild, in addition to the Pinellas County Historical Society. All of Richard’s many skills come into use while caring for Heritage Village and over 29 historic structures in the park.
As a lead volunteer, he and a dedicated group of other volunteers help to restore and maintain the structures at the Village. Samay said that “everyone in the group has the same feeling when they’re at the Village; they all care about the buildings and their heritage.”
The modest Samay said that working with an old building requires “maintaining the historical part of the building while being aware of safety issues,” something they didn’t have to worry about so much a hundred years ago. It also requires a lot of patience.
Samay and the others are purist in their work. Efforts to preserve and maintain the correct historical and architectural makeup of the structures at the village are work that cannot be rushed. Each historic structure has its own design style and peculiarities.
Among the projects they’ve worked on include replacing the flooring in the kitchen and bath at the Greenwood House, replacement of porch spindles at the Williams Park Bandstand, a complete restoration of the caboose and repairing, scraping and painting the porches of the House of Seven Gables.
Whatever the project, Samay believes in taking the time to do it right the first time, especially with irreplaceable architectural features that aren’t available at the local lumberyard or home center.
Heritage Village volunteer site coordinator Paige Noel said Samay and his team are a valuable asset to the upkeep and preservation of the various structures at the village. She also notes they are always looking for more volunteers – not just those who enjoy working with wood. They are in need of receptionists, greeters, historic house caretakers, traditional craft demonstrators and more. She encourages anyone with an interest to stop by the village. Samay agreed, noting he thoroughly enjoys being at the Village doing what he likes to do most while helping preserve the history of Pinellas County.
This article was provided by Pinellas County Communications.