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Thursday, February 5, 2015

The "Bringing Up Jonathan" Story

Actor Jonathan Groff, my cousin Susan's friend's son.
It was an ordinary day.  Emailing back and forth with my cousin Susan who lives in Amishland otherwise known as Ronks, PA.  I had recently read an article in the Lancaster Newspaper about one of her neighbors in Ronks, a Mr. Jonathan Groff.  Ever hear of Jonathan Groff.  You know, the one who just starred in "Frozen" as well as performed as Jesse St. James in "Glee" and who earned a Best Actor Tony nomination for his performance in "Spring Awakening."  Well, the article talked about Jonathan returning to the area to
Dance recital photo showing Susan's daughter Afton on
the left with Jonathan dressed in white and his
brother David standing behind him and another
friend Ashley on the right.
perform at the Ephrata Performing Arts Center where he began his career starring in "Honk" in 2002 and "Bat Boy" in 2004.  It finally struck me that Susan mentioned one time that Jonathan is the son of one of her best friends, Julie.  My next email asked her what she can tell me about him that I haven't already read in the newspaper.  Seems that Susan had plenty that she could share with me.  Sent me some old photographs that she dug out of storage that featured a very young Jonathan.  
The Wizard of Oz float in the Strasburg, PA Halloween
parade.  Afton is dressed as The Lion with Jonathan
next to her dressed as Dorothy and carrying Toto.
Friend Justin plays The Scarecrow and David is
the Tin Man.
 The first one showed four young dancers who were students of Joan Horn of Lancaster in the early 1990's.  Susan wrote that Joan was a great teacher and all the kids looked like and acted like pros and had lots of fun as you can see by their happy smiles.  Another photo was from the same time period and featured a float from the Strasburg, PA Halloween Parade which was held yearly.  Susan and some of her friends entered a float in the parade for three years and won each year.  
This float featured Jonathan swinging
from the framework of the float, strapped
in a sulky harness as Peter Pan.
 Their first float featured the Wizard of Oz with the kids dressed in costumes made by the parents and a float with lights, music and action.  Susan's husband Gary used his trailer which was decorated with the yellow brick road and the Wicked Witch's kettle with smoke pouring over from the dry ice in it.  Jonathan played Dorothy while riding on the float with a small basket carrying Toto.  Float took 1st place. The following year the friends entered a float with a Peter Pan theme which featured Jonathan as Peter Pan flying from the wooden framework on Gary's trailer.  Jonathan's dad had sulky race horses and had the perfect harness to hold his son to the framework.  That Halloween evening was freezing and every time the parade would come to a stand still Jonathan's father would take him from the harness into the SUV to warm up.  
Ashley, Jonathan's friend played Mary with
Jonathan and his friends playing chimney sweeps.
 They constantly asked him if he wanted to call it quits and Jonathan, the star that he was becoming, always wanted to continue.  Again the lights, music and action won 1st place.  The third and final year their theme was Mary Poppins and featured Jonathan's friend Ashley who moved up and down during the parade, once again in a sulky harness.  Jonathan and friends, including Susan's daughter Afton, were chimney sweeps as the float once again took 1st place.  Susan reports that she and Gary as well as all their friends had a great time when their kids were growing up together.  Jonathan's parents have a pool on their Christiana farm and everyone gathered there on Sundays.  After they ate, the adults would all head to the barn, pay the admission price of 25 cents, sit on hay bales and watch a show that the kids would put on for their parents.  
Friends posing together at Christmas a few years
ago are: Christopher and Jonathan in the front and
David, Afton and Justin in the rear.
 Jonathan was in his glory every Sunday night.  He always put his all into every role he played.  Susan wrote that the "kiddies" still talk about the parades and all the work required to make the floats.  A few years ago some of the "kids" got together at Christmas and posed for a group photo.  Oh, the memories.  As I read all the email stories and viewed the photos,  I felt as if I were there watching Jonathan and his friends perform in the barn.  I'm sure his acting career was born on those floats and during those performances in that barn in Christiana many years ago. He was a "natural." It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

PS - I emailed this story to my cousin Susan asking her to make any corrections she though necessary.  Returned it with a half-dozen corrections and this email typed in her usual red: Good job, LDub!  I made corrections/additions in red. Jonathan really is a natural just like you wrote. And, in real life, he is a very nice young man. He was brought up right, just like you and me, so when he’s home and visiting he’s just Jonathan, not Jonathan Groff the star. Ciao! Carry on! CousinS


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  2. OMG this just melted my heart. do you have any other childhood pictures of him. thank you so much for this blog. made my day. adore him :)

  3. I don't happen to have any more at this time. Our local newspaper publishes some from time to time. You might try LancasterOnline.com and then type in his name. There was a recent story in the paper about him. My cousin is best friends with his mother and that is how I managed to get photos of him. I'll see if she has any more photos, but don't count on it. Thanks for reading my stories.

  4. I don't happen to have any more at this time. Our local newspaper publishes some from time to time. You might try LancasterOnline.com and then type in his name. There was a recent story in the paper about him. My cousin is best friends with his mother and that is how I managed to get photos of him. I'll see if she has any more photos, but don't count on it. Thanks for reading my stories.