BY JACK SHORT – Willy Townsend is proof of a lot of things, not the least of which among them is that you can get up to a little mischief and still turn out alright.
A rare Florida native who’s spent her whole life here, and though she’s young she’d already like to see more of the world. Not necessarily for a permanent change, she said, but just enough for a change of pace. She was happy to fit the Beacon in for a profile, no small feat considering she’s a full time student and a full time employee at the Pink Pony.
That probably leaves some time for sleeping, but not much more, we think, so we were happy to get some time to meet the girl behind the smile.
Willy was born in Port Charlotte to her dad, William and Mom, Cynthia. She has an older brother Brandon. They lived in Rotonda before moving to south Gulf Cove.
Though she lives off island, Willy is an island girl by association. She and her partners in crime may or may not have gotten up to their share of pool hopping, bridge jumping, and golf cart tag. Like her, they are all in college now, either in state or out, and they’re all doing well.
“I’m really proud of them,” she said of cohorts Sarah, Myla and Ariane. “I knew they were all smart … even though we used to chase each other in golf carts.”
Willy is about a year away from a bachelor’s degree in health administration at State College of Florida. She wanted to have a job that would allow her to help people, she said, which would naturally lead some towards a medical profession. But Willy admitted she’s no good with needles or blood.
She managed to donate blood once, but ever since can’t seem to convince the nurses she’s not about to pass out. So she stayed in the medical profession, but on a different tack, studying the administrative side.
Willy said she hopes she can still be a part of the medical process, someone who helps make people’s experiences better.
But perhaps just in case she’s going to take a summer semester off and get her real estate license. Willy said her mom and older brother have both done the same.
Her boyfriend, John, is also part of a family business of sorts. It’s a different sort though. Like his grandfather and father, John travel the eastern seaboard as part of a private group that helps inspect nuclear power plants for safety issues.
“At first,” she said, “I thought there’s no way this is safe.”
Once she learned about extensive measures taken to ensure the inspectors’ safety, though, she warmed up to the idea.
Willy met John when she was a junior in high school, in a cooking class. Though a cooking class might seem like a perfect place to meet girls, that wasn’t why John attended.
“He just really likes cooking,” she said.
They both do.
So who’s a better cook? Well, that’s complicated, and as with anything in the kitchen, it’s probably best to let the food do the talking.
John and Willy have a dog together, Ralph, named after a clothing designer. Ralph (the dog, not the designer) is, to date, the only non-human who has perfect pitch and can perform any Bruce Springsteen album, beginning to end, from memory. But after a year touring with the E Street Band, Ralph retired, citing the rigors of touring. He mostly spends his time hanging around the kitchen now and going to the beach with Willy, which is one of the few recreational or leisure activities she can find any time to do.
She didn’t say whether or not she went to the beach to relax or to relive her glory days on the high school volleyball courts, but given her schedule it seems reasonable to assume she’s taking it easy when she’s there. Besides, for all Ralph’s (the dog, not the designer) talent as a musician, he’s all thumbs on the court.
Looking ahead, Willy said she wants to see more of the world. She’s been out of Florida twice in her life. The first time she went to Connecticut when she was just a first grader, and the second time she spent a week visiting John in Baltimore.
She said she might be able to move, but would need to be near the beach or the water.
“I’d miss it too much,” she said.
Given her strong work ethic, it’s safe to assume she go every bit as far as she’d like to which, as far as her tax guy is concerned, is far.
“My tax guy said I was impressive because I made so much money working (while also a student) …” she said.
If the tax man can’t tell who’ll succeed, who could? Maybe Ralph. He seems pretty on the ball.