“South Florida has over a half million senior citizens, if you laid them down end to end, they couldn’t get up.” – Dinney Dinofer
In 1979, Dinney Dinofer retired to Florida after a tremendously successful career booking and hosting events in New York City for conventions and corporations, representing several prominent hotels and caterers throughout Manhattan.
A few months later he came to a startling realization. Retirement was horrifyingly dull.
“I had sold my stock and moved to Florida, and I got very bored,” Dinofer, 92, said of his initial impression of being jobless. “I put out a brochure through an ad agency and didn’t realize how many people down here knew me. I ended up doing 250 jobs that first year – major conventions for Westinghouse, IBM, etc.”
Dinofer went on to work another 18 years in Florida until his wife fell ill with cancer in 1997. His last job, the retirement of Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, was one of his biggest, a $370,000 affair for 1,500 people at the Broward Convention Center for which he was hired personally by Dolphins and Florida Marlins’ owner Wayne Huizenga.
Even after the big party for the two-time Super Bowl champion Shula was in the books, retirement wasn’t an option for the then-75-year-old Dinofer.
“I feel that to be active means you’re keeping your mind active,” Dinofer says. “If that doesn’t happen, you’re wasting away to nothing.”
And so with three-quarters of a century of living under his belt, he changed professions, and became a stand-up comedian, working rooms, and eventually retirement communities, including Aston Gardens At Parkland Commons, a facility he has now proudly called home since August of 2014.
“I worked here four or five times before I even moved in,” Dinofer said. “When my second wife and I started talking about senior independent living, I investigated five different places of this kind, and the primary reason for choosing Aston Gardens is that of all the five places, this was the only one where all the people were so friendly. Everyone spoke to you the minute you walked through the door; all the other places they were very cold and indifferent. That made this place my first selection.”
The Dinofers were due to move in on August 1, 2014, but his wife was hospitalized and the move delayed three weeks. Unfortunately, she was not able to fully recover, and passed away in May of 2015.
Dinofer makes no excuses about how much he misses his other half, but continues to put his mind and body to work on a daily basis, now serving as manager for a pair of local entertainment acts, some 75 years after he began his career as a jazz drummer.
“I worked with several bands, and then an opportunity presented itself where I became the first white man to play with Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. I played all over the place with modern jazz players for about 13 years.”
One thing Dinofer has always done well is change and adapt as his environment and mindset necessitate. While being a jazz drummer was great fun, a real business was what he was after, and thus started an orchestra business in New York City for conventions and corporate dates.
Eventually he was representing the Plaza Hotel among others and was doing close to 1,000 engagements a year.
In 1973, he upped the ante and formed a conglomerate that was doing 4,000 engagements a year by the time he retired six years later.
Making a necessary transition, albeit a painful one, was a challenge that Dinofer met again after his wife’s passing last year.
“I had a very large apartment that we shared, I think it was next to the largest in the development, but I had to give it back to them after two or three months after she passed,” Dinofer said. “They were very gracious about letting me move into a single by myself, and now I’ve got it where the living room is half my office and have a little dinette.”
The living space may reduced, but the memories on the wall are enormous. Pictures of Dinofer with Lucille Ball, Desi Arnez, Jerry Lewis, and other all-time greats of the entertainment world adorn the walls.
“I can’t complain one bit about the life I’ve had,” he says. “It’s been a long winding path that has allowed me to know a lot of famous people and do a lot of amazing things.”