You know their names, you know their faces, but did you know they grew up right here in Montgomery County?
A number of famous faces grew up in Montgomery County and can call this area home. We spoke with several of these local celebrities, talking to them about their careers and how growing up in Montgomery County has impacted their rise to fame.
Marc Vetri, chef
By Meghan Ross
Before his experience working with Wolfgang Puck, before his James Beard Awards and before his numerous accolades from magazines like Bon Appétit, which named his restaurants as some of the best in the country, Marc Vetri was just a regular student at Abington Senior High School.
Vetri, the brains and chef behind Alla Spina, Osteria, Amis and Vetri, said he loved his experience at Abington and always feels surprised when people talk about how their high school experience was awful.
“I was sort of friends with everyone: athletes, weed smokers, smart kids, everybody,” he said. “But I wasn’t anything. I think I ran to the beat of my own drum. But I was friends with everyone.”
He may have trained to learn how to cook in Italy, but Vetri first dove into the restaurant world at a local deli, where he worked a couple nights a week during high school. And in the summers, he used to go to Margate and worked down at the beach at Downbeach Deli.
“It was just always what I fell back on to make money,” Vetri said of his restaurant work. “I guess the more I was in it, the more I started to like it.”
Other places Vetri frequented during his time growing up in Roslyn were Roman Delight, Lee’s Hoagie House, the basketball court at Alverthorpe Park and the Willow Grove Park mall, where he and his friends would “walk around and act like cool kids.”
One of his most memorable memories from high school was his Class of 1985’s senior prank, in which a group of kids stuck a Volkswagon bug on the roof of the school.
“I honestly don’t know how they got it up there, but we all knew about it,” he recalled. “And everyone was walking up, and there it was with our name on it.”
Now, Vetri has his moniker on a few bigger things — just not in spray paint.
Follow Meghan Ross on Twitter @ByMeghanRoss.
David Stone, sound editor
By Dutch Godshalk
Sound editor David E. Stone, 66, spent his career giving a voice to actors.
For decades, the Abington High School graduate and Hollywood veteran made sure actors like Johnny Depp, George Clooney and Harrison Ford could be heard as they commanded the silver screen in films like “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “Edward Scissorhands” and “Ocean’s Eleven.”
In his work, Stone saw a lot. He saw the humble beginnings of promising, young filmmakers (Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino), and he witnessed experienced, lauded auteurs at work — like when he collaborated with Francis Ford Coppola on Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” in 1992.
“[Coppola is] probably the greatest living American filmmaker,” Stone said of the director. It may also be worth noting his work with Coppola earned Stone an Academy Award in 1993.
Winning the Oscar was “kind of a mental shock,” he said. “It’s like the kind of shock of being in a car accident except that you’ve had a whole month to prepare for it.”
Though it’s now safely encased in a mirrored, plastic box in Stone’s home in Georgia, the award wasn’t always so safe.
“In the Northridge earthquake [of 1994] … Oscar fell down and got nicked,” he said.
The next day, while the statue was in transit to a repairman, comedian Billy Crystal asked Stone where he keeps his Oscar. Stone answered, “Right now? In a paper grocery bag from Ralph’s Grocery.”
But that’s Stone: talented, humble and somewhat deadpan. He’s the kind of guy who says “the academy was tired of exploding-helicopter movies that year” when he speaks of his Oscar win.
Now retired from movie making, Stone serves as professor and chair of the sound design department at Savannah College of Art and Design.
“I’ve traded in the everyday sound work for teaching young people and giving back a little,” he said.
But he still fondly recalls his time at Abington High School, where he gave the morning announcements over the loudspeaker and took classes on radio broadcasting. He still connects with his old classmates, still knows what everybody’s up to.
He may have rubbed shoulders with Steven Spielberg and Frank Darabont; he may have chatted up George Lucas in a lunch line once — but David E. Stone never forgot where he came from.
Follow Dutch Godshalk on Twitter @DutchGodshalk.
Adam Goldberg, creator of "The Goldbergs"
By Jarreau Freeman
He claims he was a geek growing up. However, by embracing his “geekery,” he is now a TV and film producer and writer.
“I spent so many years hiding who I really was, and being a geek is how I make a living now!” Adam Goldberg said.
Adam is the creator of the ABC comedy “The Goldbergs,” which premiered this fall. Set in the 1980s, “The Goldbergs” follows the crazy antics of Beverly and Murray Goldberg and their three children (Adam, Barry and Erica), who reside in the quaint town of Jenkintown. The show is inspired by Adam’s childhood; he grew up on Newbold Road in Jenkintown.
“Just like the character Adam on ‘The Goldbergs,’ I always dreamed of being a writer for TV and movies since I was a kid,” he said. “I always knew I’d move out to Los Angeles to pursue it — I just never knew if I’d actually ever find work!”
Adam graduated from The William Penn Charter School in 1994, and though he doesn’t make it home as often as he’d like, he said he hopes to make it back for his 20-year class reunion.
“Even though Jenkintown was so close to the city, it always felt like small-town America growing up,” he said. “We kept our door unlocked. We would ride our bikes to the toy store and the Hiway movie theater and catch fireflies in jars. It always felt like a safe place where half the neighborhood would hop our fence to swim in our pool.”
Follow Jarreau Freeman on Twitter @JarreauFreeman.
Susan Francia, Olympic gold medalist
By Jarreau Freeman
Although she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Susan Francia hasn’t forgotten her roots.
A graduate of Abington Senior High School’s Class of 2000, Francia, 31, has made a name for herself on the U.S. Women’s 8 rowing team, which earned gold in the 2008 Beijing Olympics and in the 2012 London Olympics.
She resides in San Diego, Calif., now, but she said she tries to make it home for the holidays and ventures back East during the summer to train with the U.S. Rowing Team.
“I enjoy being at home for a good meal with my parents … and [also] enjoy going for a run in the neighborhood,” said Francia, who grew up in the McKinley section of Abington Township. “I love running past the new facilities at McKinley Elementary, seeing the big trees at Alverthorpe Park and running past my childhood friends’ houses. Of course, it’s fun to go to the Willow Grove [Park] mall too to see the newest stores in there!”
Francia said that her favorite memories of growing up in Abington were attending school. In addition to having enthusiastic teachers that made learning fun, she said she received a well-rounded education by learning how to do things like play guitar, speak Chinese, cook and sew.
Francia also credits her high school experience with making her the athlete she is today.
“I loved being part of the team — even if I was just sitting on the bench,” she said. “[My coaches] also taught more valuable lessons than just how to shoot a good jump shot or run over hurdles. They taught me how to be a good teammate, a hard worker and [they] helped me learn time management skills.
“I am very thankful that I had the chance to grow up in a great community like Abington. I don’t think people realize how supportive and safe it is until they go elsewhere in the country. I feel lucky that I was brought up there because it helped me become a well-rounded person. Now, if only they had a crew team!”
Elizabeth Hur, CBS 3 reporter
By Jarreau Freeman
CBS 3 reporter Elizabeth Hur makes a living telling stories, but many may be surprised to know that she has a unique story all her own.
Born in Seoul, South Korea, the 34-year-old moved to Ambler with her family when she was 10 years old. When she came to the United States, she did not know any English, she said.
Though she had to adjust to a new culture, she credits her community for helping her make a smooth transition.
“I remember kids coming up to me [when I was a student at Fort Washington Elementary School] and literally stroking my black, ravened hair and telling me how beautiful it was,” she said giggling. “For me that was different. Instead of ousting me as someone foreign and different, I never felt more welcomed.”
Hur graduated from Upper Dublin High School in 1998 and went on to study communication and English literature at New York University. She soon landed jobs as a TV reporter in Albany, N.Y., and Salt Lake City, Utah, before accepting a position as a general news reporter with CBS 3 in 2008.
Hur said that her time at Upper Dublin High School not only enabled her to form rich friendships that she still has today, but also helped catapult her journalism career.
“I remember having a conversation with my mother in eighth grade about what I wanted to do when I grew up, and she brought up broadcasting,” she said. “She thought I could lend my voice to those in the community that could use it.”
In high school, Hur took broadcast journalism courses and participated in the school’s TV program.
Years later, she landed her first broadcast internship at CBS 3 when she was in college, thanks to the help of her former high school teacher Barbara Mackintosh.
Hur attributes her upbringing in both Korea and the United States with making her the reporter she is today.
“My Korean background, and then having to adapt to a different culture, truly helps me to go out in different neighborhoods and have people feel comfortable telling me their stories,” she said. “Without their trust, it’s difficult to get people to open up, and I absolutely have to credit my upbringing for being able to do, what I do, every day.”
Deanna Durante, NBC10 reporter
By Meghan Ross
She used to be the star of CITV, Plymouth Whitemarsh High School’s TV station.
Now, Deanna Durante faces a much larger audience as an NBC10 reporter.
One of Durante’s major influences in high school was her CITV teacher Chris McWilliams. Thinking a reporter gig would look good on a college application, the forward-thinking Durante tried out for the TV station, got picked as a reporter and did her first video with her father at a local SPCA about the need for people to adopt animals.
“I just got hooked,” she said. “I love being able to have this thing that you put together to explain how I spent my day, what I did.”
Her experience at CITV — which she described as hands-on and student-run — inspired her to pursue a career in broadcast journalism.
Another influential person in Durante’s life in high school was her journalism teacher, Steve Wills, who introduced her to the print media world. Wills asked Durante if she wanted to be a student writer for The Colonial, one of Montgomery Media’s newspapers. She submitted some articles, and by high school age, Durante found herself a published writer.
“I got to put it on my college application, and it was really cool to have a byline at 17, 18 years old at a newspaper,” she said.
The Conshohocken native said in high school she was the kind of kid who was afraid of her own shadow.
“My father was the sheriff of the county until he passed away three years ago,” she said. “When you grow up with your dad as a cop, you don’t have friends fun enough to get into trouble. They all stay away from you.”
One piece of advice she wished she could tell her 18-year-old self?
“Not to take everything so seriously!” she said. “Remember when you were in high school and you thought it was the end of the world? It’s not! And I tell that to students when I go talk to them now. I’m like, I promise you — This isn’t it. There’s so much out there for you.”
Other local celebrities:
• Bob Saget, actor, comedian: Abington Senior High School
• Mark Levin, radio talk show host: Cheltenham High School
• Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel: Cheltenham High School
• Reggie Jackson, baseball right fielder, Cheltenham High School
• Jennifer Carroll, “Top Chef” contender: Mount Saint Joseph Academy
• Chris Matthews, host of “Hardball,” political commentator: La Salle College High School
• Mike Vogel, actor: William Tennent High School
• Jamie Moyer, baseball pitcher: Souderton Area High School
• Michael Joseph Guthier, drummer for Bloodhound Gang: Souderton Area High School
• Owen Biddle, former band member of The Roots: Plymouth White-marsh High School
• Charles Darrow, inventor of Monopoly board game: Germantown Academy
• Bradley Cooper, actor: Germantown Academy
• Jill Biden, Second Lady: Upper Moreland High School
• Jim Cramer, host of “Mad Money:” Springfield Township High School