Steve Molinari: First-Generation College Grad, Former Federal Employee Finds Acceptance, Community at The Clare

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To get a full sense of Clare resident Steve Molinari’s story, it’s important to understand his roots.

A second-generation Italian, Steve was born in Charleroi, Pennsylvania, a small town south of Pittsburgh near the Appalachian region. Neither of his parents finished high school. His dad began to work from a young age after his father died. But he found success at Corning, Inc., becoming an expert in the glass business.

“He didn’t have the book education, but he was very smart,” Steve says.

When a new Corning plant went up in Greenville, Ohio, Steve’s father transferred there, uprooting the entire family as Steve began high school. It was a difficult transition for the family, and adjusting to life outside of the tight-knit community they had built in Charleroi was difficult.

At age 16, Steve began to work at a pharmacy, his first introduction to the pharmacy profession. When considering his future, Steve settled on studying pharmacy at Ohio Northern University.

“My father, because of his inability to go to school, insisted that I go to college,” Steve says. “There was no question about whether or not I was going.”

Life in D.C.

Steve was the first member of anyone in his family to graduate from college, and when he did, pharmacy had changed drastically. It shifted to mail order prescriptions and chain drugstores, and he wasn’t interested in that route.

Steve with his parents at his graduation from Ohio Northern University.

Instead, he received a commission in the United States Public Health Service and wound up moving to Washington, D.C. to work on a program for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In his two years there, he consulted with physicians and pharmacists to review data and prove the efficacy of drugs alongside their safety. It was during this tour of duty that he became interested in drug law.

Following this stint with the FDA, Steve completed a fellowship with the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association. It was around this time that he met his now-husband Jack Jennings, a lawyer, who encouraged Steve to consider law school more seriously. So he attended and graduated from Georgetown University, taking classes at night while he continued to work during the day.

With his law degree in hand, Steve had opportunities to serve major drug companies. But he chose to stay in D.C. with Jack and eventually returned to the FDA, working as a Consumer Safety Officer in what was then the Bureau of Drugs. Here, he focused on regulatory actions involving drug quality, purity and potency.

From there, Steve got a job with the National Institute on Drug Abuse. His responsibilities included helping to categorize controlled substances that have the potential of abuse and the regulation of narcotic drug treatment programs. He also was involved with hearings on medical marijuana use.

“I like to tell people I went from therapeutic drugs to recreational drugs,” Steve jokes.

Steve retired early, in 1994. He was ready to spend more time with Jack, with whom he has now been for nearly 50 years. Plus, his career was trying, yet he acknowledges his involvement in pharmaceutical changes over the years.

“I think everybody’s work is important to one degree or another,” Steve says. “I was not a star, but my work was necessary.”

Moving to The Clare

Several years into retirement, in 2017, Steve and Jack believed it was time to leave behind their 4-story, 150-year-old townhouse in D.C.. Yet they were hesitant to make it a two-step process of downsizing and then moving to a retirement community later. However, they were concerned about making such a move after reading various articles about retirement homes discriminating against the LGBTQ community.

So the couple was careful throughout their search for senior living. When they came across The Clare, they could tell it would be a different experience from what they had read about.

“An interesting thing we discovered then and since we’ve been here is how many residents here have not only gay relatives, but gay friends,” Steve says. “That has been a wonderful experience, how we are accepted here as a couple.”

Steve with his husband, Jack Jennings.

This experience has been bolstered by the array of new opportunities and activities available. Within his first year of living at The Clare, Steve was elected to the board of The Clare Charitable Foundation, a resident-run organization aimed at supporting, recognizing and rewarding employees at The Clare for their hard work and commitment. He also joined the Gold Coast Encore Chorale, a singing group for older adults that rehearses at The Clare.

“That’s the nice thing about being here,” Steve says. “You want to try something different? Do it! Go for it!”

That’s not to mention the strong friendships both Steve and Jack have formed since they moved in.

“When they talk about retirement community, we didn’t know exactly what that meant,” Steve says. “It’s actually almost like a new family.”