Have passion will travel

Phil Weinstein coordinates Montgomery County’s bus trips for people age 55-plus. His wife, Maxine, assists.
Photo by Andrea F. Siegel

At 90, Phil Weinstein isn’t planning full retirement. He is wrapping up planning next year’s trips — about 38 from spring through fall — for the day trip program he coordinates in the Montgomery County Department of Recreation.

“I take almost 3,000 people a year,” the Rockville resident says. The program, SOAR, or Senior Outdoor Adventures in Recreation, offers bus trips for people age 55-plus.

Nearly all have an eye toward history — that’s his doing. “Phil is really in tune with what our customers like,” says Carmen Berrios, department spokesperson.

SOAR’s 2018 list includes a walking tour focused on Pickett’s Charge at the Gettysburg Battlefield in Pennsylvania, a visit to President James Madison’s Montpelier estate in Virginia and a day of sailing the Chesapeake Bay on a skipjack and sightseeing in St. Michaels, Md.


He’s been on every trip at least once, having planned them over his 24-year tenure in the part-time job he began after retiring from full-time work.

He escorts one trip a week accompanied by his wife of 58 years, Maxine, 80. Since her 2015 retirement, she has joined him, very part-time on administrative tasks and as a trip volunteer, checking in and herding participants, having gone on some SOAR trips with him previously.

Traveling — whether for work or vacation — and learning – whether they’re together or not — are important to the Weinsteins. They say there’s always more to learn and see. Include the classes, programs, recreation and time with family and friends — they’re busy.

“They are living the life that they always lived. They have always been busy and they have always been social. They just never stopped,” says David Weinstein, their older son.

Phil Weinstein finds his work fulfilling and challenging: “It’s very satisfying because I’m providing a service that is very enjoyable to people.” And, he adds: “It keeps me alive and alert, besides being useful.”

He thrives on being engaged and multitasking, scouring publications and picking the brains of tour guides for new destinations, and making all trip arrangements, from hiring “great guides” who are knowledgeable and engaging to choosing lunch menus.

“I started 24 years ago with a full head of hair and I’ve been pulling my hair out looking for new trips,” he said, pointing to his thinning crown.

“He is an amazing negotiator,” Berrios says, adding that he is “unbelievably organized” as he creates a one-stop shop of all-inclusive, popular day trips.

He also golfs — a passion of more than five decades — with friends twice a week at Lakewood Country Club in Rockville. Three times a week, he works out in the apartment building’s gym.

Sometimes he also attends a lecture with his wife. The couple, New York area transplants, remain New York Times readers.

Retired from her position as the assistant to the marketing director of Westat after 37 years with the research company in Rockville, Maxine Weinstein says she wept the first day she was home but her husband left for work. Then she got busy.

She attends programs and classes for older adults run by Live and Learn Bethesda and Oasis on everything from Broadway musicals to news, international, national and local.

“I like to know what’s going on,” she says.

“Two weeks ago, I went to the National Gallery of Art,” a trip to see an exhibit of the Dutch Golden Age of Art, learning about the works and their context, she recounts.

In recent weeks, she attended a program on pogroms targeting Eastern European Jews after World War I; it featured the documentary “My Dear Children.”

Her parents were immigrants from Russia. “I do make it a point to go to those classes that are related to Judaism,” she says.

She plays mah jongg weekly with friends. A box holds her mah jongg cash stash, which fluctuates with wins and losses. She loves the game with its mix of luck and strategy — “I could play this game for toothpicks” — and the camaraderie — “It’s about fun and being social.”

“I just don’t think about it,” she says of her age. “When I say how old I am, I just can’t believe it.”

In the New York area, Phil Weinstein was a vice president of merchandising at Macy’s, work that took him to Europe, China, Japan and Israel. Maxine started joining him on trips in 1973. They moved to Montgomery County in 1977 when their sons were teenagers for his job as a merchandiser for the now-defunct Woodward & Lothrop department store in the District of Columbia. He retired in 1994.

All the while they traveled extensively, including a few times to Israel. “We’ve been to every continent except Antarctica,” Phil Weinstein says.

In recent years, they made this tradeoff: cruises instead of land trips.

“It is a great lesson for everybody. They don’t make age a part of their lives,” says David Weinstein. “They just continue to live.”

Andrea F. Siegel is a Washington-area writer.

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