Woman's songs praise city, Florida
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
By Dan Scanlan
The Florida Times-Union
Her songs have praised the city, state and nation since she started writing them 28 years ago.
Now Irene Pasamanick has written a song to show folks how "super" Jacksonville is with the 2005 Super Bowl on the way. Another song was given new patriotic life since the terrorist attacks on the United States.
Sitting in her sunny living room off St. Augustine Road, the 76-year-old Mandarin resident says her works were all inspired "by the Almighty" and her own battle with multiple sclerosis.
"It came from my inner introspection of myself. They just came to me," she said with a catch in her voice. "There is a message in each one."
Jacksonville Super Bowl Host Committee President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Kelly said Pasamanick's song, You Are Super, Jacksonville, is one of two already submitted to his office for consideration, the other being a hip-hop song, and he expects others will come in. With about 800 days left until the big game comes to Alltel Stadium, Kelly said no one knows if an "official" Super Bowl song will be chosen. But he said he's "flattered" that Pasamanick and others are excited enough to compose and send him theirs, and they will be put to good use.
"It is wonderfully written, and while the other is more hip-hopping, R&B, that is great," Kelly said. "We have to find a way to show people's enthusiasm off, and our new Web site is a possibility, maybe a section showing how some residents feel about the Super Bowl."
Pasamanick studied voice, musical theory and piano at the Jacksonville College of Music in the 1940s, and her singing talents brought her a Sunday afternoon show on radio station WJAX when she about 18. She also sang on other radio and television programs locally and later in Orlando, where she and her two young sons moved when husband Jerome got a new job in the aerospace industry.
Health problems were diagnosed in the mid-1960s as multiple sclerosis, so music went on the back burner as she worked on controlling her disease, worked with the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Central Florida as patient services chairwoman, and raised her family. But the disease progressed and she moved into a wheelchair 15 years ago, traveling around now in a yellow-and-black Amiga Scooter with portable telephone parked in its basket.
By the 1980s, Pasamanick said she decided to come "back to music very strongly" and began writing songs. She's done 25 so far, including some gospel tunes and others like A Florida Christmas and Let Me Photograph This Moment in Time. Many "just come to me, like I am given an inspiration," she said.
One inspiration came when a friend saw her perform and suggested she act on a suggestion from Paula Hawkins, then a Florida U.S. Senator, to write a new song that described Florida better than the official state song, Old Folks at Home, written by Stephen Foster in 1851.
She ended up with Florida Shines, its lyrics referring to a state where people have a "smile on their face" from "Tallahassee to Key West, there is so much to see; The great Suwanee River flows gentle and free. While all of Florida is calling to me, oh how Florida shines."
Presented to lawmakers in 1984, it didn't have a chance against Foster's original, she said.
"The people in the Suwanee River area said we should keep it [Foster's song] as the official state song, and said they would not help the sponsorship at all," she said. "We are the Sunshine State, and this other song doesn't say that. [Old Folks at Home] can't convey that. But it is an official song and it has its place."
Patriotic inspiration struck when she wrote Stand Up For America, Millennium of Hope as problems heated up in the Middle East before 1991's Operation Desert Storm. Played at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando in 1994, it was updated in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to "express the feeling that America was attacked on its own shores, and we will find those who have done this to our country."
The couple lost one son in a car accident in the early 1990s, then they moved back to Jacksonville when her husband retired seven years ago. But among the Chinese artwork and furniture in their lakeside home is a tape recorder, always present to record song ideas. One such is the jazz tune she did in 2000 called You Are Super, Jacksonville, its lyrics proclaiming that Jacksonville has nights that "sparkle and shine" and "sunshine and oceans; breezes so fine. At Alltel, the superstars are playing on the line."
Staff writer Dan Scanlan can be reached at 359-4549
© Copyright 2002, The Florida Times-Union