Fascinating, Fearless, and Flourishing at 40 and Beyond:
Adams Countians Overcome Odds to Pursue Career Paths and Passions
By Karen Hendricks
Opening photo by Kelsey Kinard
Character and conviction, drive and determination. What propels people forward—sometimes over seemingly insurmountable hurdles—to pursue their dreams, especially later in life? We talked to eight extraordinary people, following their career paths in and around Adams County, to find out.
Dr. Chris Wetzel: Family Man, Family Doctor
Imagine being 39 years old on your first day of school.
“I was wearing a tie, holding a briefcase. Of course, everyone’s looking at me, all these 20-somethings, and I’m dressed for success,” Chris Wetzel recalls. “I quickly lost the tie, but I was the oldest guy in the class.”
Wetzel was following his dream of becoming a family doctor by entering medical school. He commuted to Hershey’s Penn State College of Medicine for several years, amid his three children’s baseball and field hockey games and family life. His wife Tracy went back to work as a teacher to make ends meet.
“It was definitely a strain, but Tracy and I were able to keep things going,” Wetzel says. “I think the Lord directed me that way … I wanted to be a family doc in Gettysburg where we had set up a life.”
The medical profession is where Wetzel began his career—as a physical therapist. He and Tracy, high school sweethearts from the Harrisburg area, fell in love with Gettysburg and moved here soon after he took a job at Gettysburg Hospital in 1988. Wetzel founded Adams County Physical Therapy in 1995 and, through interactions with area family doctors, saw the kind of life and connection they have with people.
That’s what he wanted.
First, he had to pass organic chemistry at Gettysburg College. Check. Then pass the Medical College Admission Test. Check. He applied to one medical school—the only one within commuting distance of Gettysburg—Penn State College of Medicine at Hershey. Check.
“The interviewer said, ‘You seem a little old,’” Wetzel recalls, “And I said, ‘Look, I’m here because I have this crazy idea, I’d really like to be a doctor, and I’m asking for a shot.’ I didn’t have the best scores, but they gave me a shot.”
Wetzel gets choked up talking about the hardest part of his medical school experience. He failed a one-credit class, but the professor passed him anyway, saying he knew Wetzel ultimately would be a good doctor.
So, while his kids were high schoolers, Wetzel was a resident at York Hospital. He graduated on June 30, 2009 and opened his private practice in Gettysburg on July 1.
“[Physical therapy] gave me a direction in college. I look back on it, and it was one of the best training programs for family medicine,” Wetzel says.
Today, at the age of 56, that’s what he’s still practicing, out of an office on Baltimore Street. But he’s still overcoming hurdles.
“On Christmas Eve 2018, I was almost killed in a car accident,” Wetzel explains.
He was on his way to York Hospital to visit a dying church member when he was struck in a head-on collision. Both of his feet were crushed.
“I hold no bad feelings toward the fellow [driver]—he was hurt badly, a couple beds down from me in the trauma bay, so I know he’s dealing with his own stuff,” Wetzel says.
He spent much of 2019 in a wheelchair. Wetzel speaks highly of his fellow family doctors, who saw his patients while he recuperated and underwent several surgeries. He returned to work part-time, then to full-time when COVID-19 struck, so it’s been a rough road back.
But through it all, he maintains a positive outlook.
“I know I’m not going to walk normally,” Wetzel says. “But with strengthening, my [physical therapy]background helps me so much. And when patients tell me about pain, I know what that feels like. So that’s been something [as a doctor]that benefits me.”
“There is a negative side to changing your career. Financially, it’s tough,” Wetzel says. “But if you love the work you’re doing, it’s more than a job—it’s part of your life. If you know every morning when you wake up that you have a goal—a calling—it’s motivation, and you pull strength out of that.”
Cindy Keeney: A Vocation of Advocacy
Cindy Keeney was sending her youngest son off to kindergarten in 1996 when she heard about a part-time job at the Adams County Courthouse. The timing seemed perfect.
“I feel like this career path found me,” Keeney says, nearly 25 years later.
Keeney was an advocate in the county’s Victim Witness Assistance Program for 15 years. Ten years ago, she was promoted to director of the program, a position she continues to hold today at age 57.
“[Former director] Chris Goodacre was a huge mentor to me,” Keeney says. “When you’re dealing with homicides, child abuse, rapes—she was always available to ask, ‘How are you doing?’ During a rape trial, for example, when there’s a not guilty verdict, my immediate thoughts are about the victim, and Chris was very good at helping me stay healthy by debriefing me.”
Keeney says her upbringing served her well.
“I was raised with an understanding of the golden rule,” Keeney says. “If this was me, what would I want someone to say to me?”
Keeney’s childhood, from the age of 10, was spent on the Hostetter Farm, her family’s 300-acre Adams County farm. She graduated from Gettysburg Area High School and earned a communications degree from Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College), but “never really worked in that field.” She and husband George, a chef, had three children, and she cherished being a mom.
Just five years into her role as an advocate, she experienced a turning point in life.
Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Keeney was part of a Pennsylvania response team serving at Federal Emergency Management Agency’s family assistance center at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.
“One of the things I realized was all the services that were available, from the Red Cross to The Salvation Army,” she says. ”It definitely had an impact on me and spurred me to become a volunteer at the local United Way when I returned home.”
Services to crime victims have expanded under her watch at the courthouse. She wrote a grant to develop a crisis intervention team versed in identifying situations involving those with mental illness. Her office also instituted a traumatic reduction program, which helps victims deal with past trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Keeney was even recognized with the 2013 Pathfinder Award by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency for her efforts attending to the family and trial witnesses in the case of murdered wildlife conservation officer David Grove.
“I don’t like to talk about the award,” Keeney says. “It was just like any case, but there are definitely cases that mean more to us or take a piece of our heart with them.”
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Keeney says. “When I became director, I really didn’t know how to write a grant or set up a budget—administrative skills. I relied on other county victim advocates, I called them. I love networking and partnering with others. We work better together.”
Pheap Mao Seltzer: Styling Her Success
Pheap (pronounced “Pia”) Mao Seltzer never wore shoes until she was 12 years old, boarding a plane that would take her from Cambodia to America.
It was March 1985, and she’d never experienced such cold weather, nor had she ever worn so much clothing in her life, including a “big poufy jacket.”
But that trip helped her family of six escape the Khmer Rouge’s deadly Communist regime and start a new life in Gettysburg—a trip sponsored by a “wonderful” Gettysburg church.
“Even though I saw a lot of tragedy, I tend to have happy childhood memories,” Seltzer says. “When we were fleeing, I have the memory of sitting in the back of an ox cart—my dad put us on the cart. My brother was a baby. I remember seeing dead bodies floating in water, but I wasn’t traumatized. My dad said we’d meet later, and somehow we met.”
Much of her childhood was spent in refugee camps, where her father had the presence of mind to stand outside the windows of camp schools to learn English.
By the time the family arrived in Gettysburg, he knew broken English. Seltzer, the oldest of four children, didn’t know one word when she joined Gettysburg’s Keefauver Elementary School’s fifth-grade class midway through the school year.
One year later, that had changed.
“By the end of sixth grade, I learned to mimic everything others said and did,” Seltzer says. “But I have a lot of learning disabilities, probably from malnutrition and starvation during the war.”
She’s proud of the fact that she graduated from Gettysburg Area High School in 1992 while holding down jobs delivering newspapers, cleaning hotel rooms, then working at a restaurant. That set a chain of events into motion: It allowed her to buy her first car, which provided the transportation she needed to pursue a career.
“I knew I was artistic—I loved fashion but I didn’t have the grades for fashion school, so I went to beauty school instead, because hair is also artistic. I feel that God was the one who told me what to do,” Seltzer says.
She graduated from Hanover’s Empire Beauty School, then worked at several Gettysburg salons, including the former Gina’s Styling Salon, where owner and mentor Gina LeVan took her “under her wing” for nearly 15 years. That experience gave Seltzer the confidence to take her next step—owning her own salon.
Today, at the age of 46, Seltzer owns and operates Beauty Works in Linglestown, near Harrisburg. She lives nearby in Hummelstown with Brian, her husband of 18 years, and their three children.
Five years ago, she made another important business decision.
“I didn’t want to lease anymore; I wanted to own the building, so I bought it,” she says. “My goal is to pay it off in the next six or seven years.”
And she’s proud to spend her workdays with a special coworker—her sister.
“In the Cambodian camps, the roads were not paved—they were bright orange dirt. Me and my brother would walk to school. There were trenches along the sides of the road, and in monsoon season, some of the kids would get stuck in the trenches and die. So I learned to hold my brother’s hand and walk in the middle of the road. That was me learning survival of the fittest,” Seltzer recalls.
Sharon & Chris Tillman: Inn Love
A young couple from Australia were the first guests to stay at Sharon and Chris Tillman’s bed and breakfast, Georges on York, in Taneytown, Md.
“It wasn’t until after breakfast that they told us she was from a ‘hotel family,’ and they told us how well we had done—it was amazing,” Sharon recalls.
It was validation that years of planning, dreaming, and working toward opening their B&B had paid off.
The Tillmans, celebrating their 34th wedding anniversary this month, both come from successful careers—hers in marketing and communications, his in the construction business. They raised two children, now adults, in Baltimore County.
“We both love to entertain, to meet people, and we love the adventure of traveling,” says Chris, 58. “About 15 years ago my aunt and uncle bought a B&B outside Albuquerque, New Mexico, and turned it into one of the most successful in the southwest.”
“Their story inspired us,” says Sharon, 55. “Here was this opportunity to watch them create this beautiful space and welcome people from all over the world. We even got to be guest innkeepers for them. They saw the potential in us and encouraged us to follow our dream like they did.”
First, the search for the perfect property took about three years, until they discovered the “warm and welcoming” 6,000-square-foot circa 1840s and 1870s Georgian house at 10 York Street. The renovations—including adding six bathrooms to the six bedrooms—took 14 months.
“It was kind of maddening because I was still working full time,” Chris recalls. “But as crazy as it was, the year I spent renovating this house was the most fun I ever had.”
They opened Georges on York in July 2018. They chose the name because, coincidentally, four previous homeowners were named George.
“It has been so much fun. We have met people from all over the world and U.S. It’s been amazing to be part of people’s special times, celebrating weddings or special events. We get to be part of those memories and help them have a great time,” Sharon says.
Just as in marriage, their skills combine for a team approach. Chris enjoys preparing breakfast—his specialties include a “countryfied” eggs benedict or eggs rancheros with pulled pork.
“It’s been everything we hoped for,” Sharon reflects. “When you realize your dream, you realize how lucky you are to get up and do what you love.”
“It’s never too late, it’s never too early to get a start on following that dream. Sometimes the hardest part is getting started,” says Chris. “What’s stopping you? How can you get past those things?”
“Find a partner or someone who’s like-minded, so you don’t have to go it alone,” Sharon advises. “We have mentors, a network of other innkeepers that we ask advice of. No matter what your industry or idea, find people who are following that path and talk to them, learn what you can, so that when you’re ready to take that leap, you know there are people rooting for you.”
Mary Turk-Meena: Step-By-Step Across the Battlefield
Mary Turk-Meena’s love of history stems from “amazing” history teachers in high school and college.
But it wasn’t until five years ago that history became the focus of her “retirement career” as a Licensed Battlefield Guide.
“I’d practiced law for 35 years, and I was feeling the pull to do something else—history-related,” Turk-Meena says. “The only way was to retire, so I could focus and pass the test.”
The test she’s referring to is the notoriously challenging Licensed Battlefield Guide exam. Like many guides, she didn’t pass it on her first attempt. But her second try, in 2015, qualified her to join the prestigious ranks of about 125 current guides.
Today, at the age of 68, she reflects on the winding path that led her to Gettysburg.
She grew up in Delaware, met her husband James in Ohio while they both majored in music, and earned her law degree from Temple University. As a lawyer, Turk-Meena specialized in employee benefits, helping clients that ranged from Fortune 100 companies to startups. The couple lived throughout the U.S. and raised two daughters while James pursued his career as an opera conductor. Coincidentally, her mother’s roots were in Chambersburg, but she doesn’t recall visiting Gettysburg—until one of her daughters developed an interest.
“She watched the movie ‘Gettysburg’ in school and asked to rent it. We watched it over and over again, then came and visited that summer for the first time in the mid-90s,” Turk-Meena says. “The next year we did a mother-daughter trip visiting Civil War battlefields. She’s really responsible for this.”
Now, Turk-Meena guides 275 battlefield tours annually—
a combination of car tours, horseback tours with Hickory Hollow Farms, and tours for leadership groups; she’s currently on the faculty of the Gettysburg Foundation’s Footsteps to Leadership program.
“You get an opportunity to impact people, to get them thinking … about things that still have a real impact on people’s lives today,” Turk-Meena says. “We don’t just talk about Meade and Lee but, ‘Who are these people—what is their life story?’”
Her legal background serves her well on the battlefield.
“Lawyers tend to be very lineal thinkers, and I think that helps people understand the battle’s sequence of events,” Turk-Meena reflects. “The only way people will walk away with any kind of connection to [Gettysburg] is if they have an emotional experience, but it’s almost like leading a horse to water—it’s step by step.”
“It’s the same advice I give my kids—do something you love,” Turk-Meena says. “If you love it, you will excel at it.”
Judge Christina M. Simpson: Justice and Peace
There’s a quote hanging in Judge Christina M. Simpson’s office: “Have an attitude of gratitude.”
It’s a value that was instilled in her from an early age, growing up on her family’s Gettysburg area farm across the street from her grandparents.
“At a very early age, I learned the value of hard work. That work ethic led me on a path to be successful,” Simpson says. “My grandfather [Ernie Simpson] lost several fingers in an accident, but he never claimed that as a handicap or difficulty … he was such a loving, kind person.”
Growing up with a love of horses (she still rides today), she considered becoming a veterinarian. But in ninth-grade government class, her path became clear: She decided to become a lawyer.
“My parents would probably say it was because I was argumentative,” Simpson says with a laugh. “But all joking aside, helping people who need an advocate and the system of law was very interesting to me.”
Following school and a unique internship with then-Adams County Public Defender Jeff Cook, she worked as Adams County Assistant District Attorney, then served as a general practice attorney with a Hanover law firm, which allowed for more flexibility with family life. She met her husband in law school, and they have one son. What came next would set her life on a new path.
“In 2009, I was diagnosed with cancer, and it stopped everything,” Simpson says. “I had the opportunity to reevaluate my career and where I wanted to go with it. I had been handling child custody cases that were toxic, and I didn’t like participating in that kind of conflict.”
After recovering from cancer, she became trained as a family mediator, then founded her own law practice to focus on family mediation.
“No other attorney in Adams County had ever done that, and it was a terrific niche opportunity,” says Simpson, who has been cancer-free for 10 years.
In 2015, she was elected as Adams County’s first female judge, a position she continues to hold today at age 49.
“When I ran, it was important for me to run on my qualifications—not on the fact that I’d be the first female judge,” Simpson says. “Since being elected, it sort of hits me in different ways. When I look up at portraits of prior judges, and they’re all men, I think about my portrait being up there one day when I retire and that is neat—it’s a real culture shift for our courtroom. I’m very grateful to have that feather in my cap.”
As a judge, she handles the county’s family law cases—divorce, child custody, and support cases—which she says ties into her personality as a “people person.”
“I like hearing about people’s backgrounds, how all the pieces of their lives-—like pieces of a puzzle—fit with putting together a [custody]schedule for their child, for example, [and]trying to be understanding of people’s points of view and reflecting that back to them,” Simpson says. “I enjoy being a conduit for that … putting people on a path to peace.”
“I always tell my teenage son to follow what interests him the most and what he feels most passionate about, and I think that advice translates to people at any age in life,” Simpson says. “Surviving cancer made me a more fearless person—it gave me a different perspective …. Life is going to throw things at you that you didn’t expect, but sometimes those things turn out to be a blessing and lead you down a path where you’re really meant to be.”
One to Watch
This thirty-something is making a big impression
Taurean “Tory” Moses: Putting the Ball in His Court
As a little boy, Tory Moses was impressed by rows and rows of books, specifically legal books, at his mother Stephanie Wansel’s Gettysburg workplace, MidPenn Legal Services.
“It seemed like there were hundreds of books and that always seemed powerful to me,” recalls Moses, now 34. “I knew the people coming in and out of that office needed help, and something inside of me said, ‘I want to be someone who can help others like that.’”
Moses went on to graduate from Gettysburg Area High School, then Shippensburg University, where he studied political science. For several years, he worked for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor in Harrisburg.
“It was a good experience, but I aspired for something more—
I was always leaning toward a career in law,” Moses says.
He applied and was accepted to Widener University Commonwealth Law School in Harrisburg. Then, he had “a stroke of luck,” stumbling upon a job at Gettysburg law firm Entwhistle & Roberts. It was supposed to be a temporary position, filling in for someone for six weeks.
“Those six weeks turned into four years,” Moses says.
He held down the job throughout law school. He describes himself as “motivated” to graduate in three years—an accomplishment he achieved amid the COVID-19 landscape this past May. Although the pandemic postponed the bar exam, his job at Entwhistle & Roberts is extended for another year.
“Ultimately, my goals are to be a resource for people, a bridge for people who don’t know the criminal justice system and legal process, and people who have trouble accessing help,” Moses says. “I think I can do the most good locally because I’m from here and people know me.”
When he’s not dispensing legal advice, you might find Moses cooking up and dispensing soul food. He works side-by-side with father Eldridge Moses on the family’s popular area food truck, Uncle Moe’s Soul Food.
Family is his inspiration. Moses attributes his work ethic and perspective to his father’s family near New Orleans.
“We’re talking dirt roads—they don’t have much in terms of material things, but there’s so much love and positivity,” Moses says.
His aunt, Jessie Smith, was also a role model—“like a grandmother”—and her recent death was one of the hardest things he’s endured.
“She had a lung transplant, and I moved into her house to help. We had a conversation one night during my first year of law school, when I was encouraging her to get more exercise, and in jest, she said, ‘You don’t have to worry about me dying until you’re through law school,’” Moses says. “She died the day after I graduated, and it’s still something I struggle with, but I have to keep pushing—I know that’s what she would have wanted.”
“Life is far too short to spend it doing things that do not make you happy or do not inspire you. It seems to me that a lot of people settle, and they’re not very happy,” Moses says. “I would encourage people to branch out and take risks … just make sure you’re taking intelligent risk and have a plan to execute it. It’s important to keep your end goal in sight and use that as motivation.”