1996 Winner: Roger Hegemier
Roger Hegemier’s wife, Marilyn, might have pondered thoughts of ripping a sweater off the back of an unsuspecting college kid in efforts to support her husband’s bid to win the Hemingway Look-Alike Contes
“She has always been a great supporter,” praised Roger, the 1996 Papa pick. Marilyn’s eyes bulged when she saw the collegian walk into the Newark, Ohio, Police Department where she worked. The turtleneck treasure was an exact match for the garment that adorned Hemingway in his most famed cover photo for Life magazine.
“My husband needs this sweater!” she told the startled student who obviously became worried about leaving the precinct sans sweater.
Fortunately, he left with sweater intact after informing Marilyn that an entire table full of the heavy-knit clothing was on sale back on campus. She made a beeline for the garment gold.
“Marilyn found the sweater I eventually won in,” said her proud husband, who later learned that the thoughtful gift might have become a product from hell.
“Obviously, it’s a scorcher on Greene Street outside Sloppy Joe’s in July, waiting for the judges’ decision. You hold off putting on the sweater until the last minute, then you slip it on and run to the stage.”
Like hundreds of fellow contestants through the years―sweating in sweaters―Roger shares the opinion that it would have been better if the author had decided to wear a tank top for that particular photo shoot.
Born in the cooler climes of New Brennan, Ohio, the real estate investor and broker now heads Peoples Real Estate Company in the nearby Buckeye State town of Newark.
A People magazine photo of a Hemingway Look-Alike contest winner lured Roger to Key West for Hemingway Days.
“We saw that while vacationing on Marco Island in Florida and decided on the spur of the moment to drive on down.”
Roger checked out the contest.
It looked easy. “I can do that !”
He entered on a Friday night and didn’t make the finals. But he kept at his goal.
A winner in his sixth attempt, Roger reports, “It’s one of those things where you don’t really expect you’re ever going to win. But it’s fun, and you keep going, and it kind of becomes a reunion whether you win or lose.”
Sharing a sentiment with several other Papas, he added, “The excitement was enjoying the competition. Once you win, some of the excitement is gone.”
As other Papa-turned-judges have learned, companionship of new friends for life effectively supplants the thrills and spills of competition for the title. He still gets a kick when he walks down Duval Street and Conch Train conductors tell passengers, “Look to your right, and you’ll see one of those Hemingway look-alike guys!”
Asked if the victory changed his life, Roger hesitates. “It definitely added a chapter to my life. We’ve made some very good friends, and we communicate with them year round.”
He paused to think about it more.
A smile mellowed his bearded face.
“When you start to think about it, yes, it did change my life.”
From soaked sweaters to new found friends, the Hegemiers demonstrate the magic and meaning of the Hemingway Look-Alike Society―for Papas and Mamas alike.