Volunteering to help build a better world

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

Lillie A. Ross...

March 31, 1996|By M. Dion Thompson

Volunteering to help build a better world; Lillie A. Ross: 0) Former teacher has spent a lifetime helping people learn to live productively and enjoy life.

Lillie A. Ross, 94, stopped teaching years ago, but she never stopped helping others.

"My aim in life has been to help people to live a better life, to enjoy life and be productive citizens," says the volunteer extraordinaire. "Of course, that better life is spiritual as well as economical."

She is revered in the local and national Presbyterian church circles. The Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church named its family learning center after her. That honor, given years ago, still brings her joy. And, she still visits the center to help out wherever she is needed.

"It makes me feel very happy that I have inspired people to do things to lift them up," she says. "My hope is that they will make something out of their life that is productive to society."

The desire to help others led Miss Ross into a 42-year teaching career with the Baltimore public school system. She taught in the middle grades before the system formed its junior high schools. She also has served on the executive board of Church Women United of Greater Baltimore for 32 years and is involved with the Interfaith Institute.

Her energy seems boundless. Just recently she returned from a 21-day tour of Australia and New Zealand. During her trip, she started plotting a tour of the Holy Land.

"But while I was there, they had the nerve to start a war," she says, noting the recent bombings in Israel. "So, those plans are out. Now, I think I'll go to Greece."

As for slowing down, considering retirement? Forget it.

"The only time you retire is when God takes you up to glory, or the devil takes you down below," she says.

Miss Ross, who comes from a family of educators and clergymen, believes the process of building a better world begins with her. She has held that thought for nearly 90 years.

"I felt as though God had a plan for my life, and I have tried my best to follow that plan," she says. For now, you may know him as Johnny, just Johnny, afternoon drive disc jockey on WOCT, 104.3-FM, where the 1970s live on and on. Johnny Panzarella says he likes radio just fine, but has a few other plans.

He's had a little taste of what life might be like when and if he establishes himself as a movie and/or television actor. That weekend in January 1995, when the phone rang on a Friday night, and the people from "Homicide" offered him a part in one episode. Then the next morning with the coffee brewing and Mr. Panzarella still glowing, the phone rang again. This time it was the casting people from "12 Monkeys" offering the role of a Secret Service agent.

"It was probably one of the happiest days of my career," says Mr. Panzarella, a 41-year-old veteran of the Baltimore radio scene, who is trying to fashion a life in movies from the ground up. He has no agent, but much desire and energy. He sends tapes, pictures, resumes all over the place: "I send, I send, I send."

The parts in "Homicide" and "12 Monkeys" were the biggest he's done since he got his first role in a television movie, "The Murder of Mary Fagin," in 1986. In between there were three television roles, some speaking, some not.

He was billed as "guest star" in "Homicide" for playing bar owner Harvey Malone being questioned about a murder by Ned Beatty and Clark Johnson. In the scene shot at Club Charles, Mr. Panzarella was on screen for about 2 1/2 minutes.

"Just to go toe-to-toe with Ned Beatty, I really enjoyed that as an acting experience," says Mr. Panzarella. "That kind of put me on the map."

His scene in "12 Monkeys" took nine hours to film outside the Cloisters, a former children's museum on Falls Road. On screen, it lasted 12 seconds, and Mr. Panzarella had four lines. But he was up there, with Bruce Willis, if only for a moment.

PD For now, it's on to more auditions and waiting by the telephone.

Arthur Hirsch

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