Forever famous as “Hot Lips” on M*A*S*H, this two-time Emmy winner feels connected to St. Augustine. Loretta is a strong advocate for the local non-profit Ayla’s Acres No-Kill Animal Rescue and an honorary board member. She even has her own room, “Loretta’s Loft,” in the organization’s Thrift Shop on King St. It is filled with her jewelry creations, watercolor paintings and prints and other items to benefit the cause.
She was gracious enough to answer a few questions in advance of her March 27th parade appearance.
Q: Everyone is excited that you are the Easter Parade Grand Marshall this year. Are you as excited as we are? What does it mean to you?
A: I’m glad to hear that people are excited about it. Yes, I am very much looking forward to the parade. Firstly, it’s an honor to be invited and that has great meaning to me. In addition to that, my appearance will give me further opportunity to put a spotlight on Ayla’s Acres No-Kill Animal Rescue, on our fundraising, and on our Thrift Shop in St. Augustine.
Q: You’ve done several appearances in St. Johns County recently. Is this ‘home’ now for you?
A: Truthfully, the residents make me feel that is IS home! I have made so many friends here and enjoy the time I spend in St. Augustine. But no, I don’t live in Florida. However, in just the past weeks, I’ve flown in for the MASH Gala in St. Augustine, The American Red Cross Ball in Palm Beach, and the Polonaise Ball in Miami. I loved every minute of it.
Q: Many of us still watch MASH returns nightly. Did you realize at the time that the show would have such a huge impact?
A: I doubt anyone could have predicted the phenomenon that has happened. The show has never been off the air, entering into syndication in year three of the 11-year run. It runs in syndication still, and the entire series is on Netflix.
Q: How does it feel to be forever linked to such an iconic character? (Major Margaret Houlihan)
A: It’s overwhelming mostly and, at the same time, very humbling. At times it’s very surreal, living a life where so many people enjoyed your work—the show, the character – so many people you’ll never meet, their letters describing how you touched their lives. I cannot help but feel blessed.
Q: How and why did you get involved with Ayla’s Acres?
A: I have been supportive and passionately involved in the humane environment for most of my life. I appeared at an event for HSUS (Humane Society of U.S.) about six years ago, where I met the extraordinary woman who would become my dear friend and would bring Ayla’s Acres into my life– Fran Charlson, the Executive Director of Ayla’s. She is the most tireless, committed, and relentlessly devoted person I’ve ever seen. I call Fran a one-woman army, and I have her to thank for bringing me into the life and future of Ayla’s Acres.
Q: What legacy do you hope to leave?
A: That’s an interesting question. I find that I don’t think in those terms. I think about ‘now’ and ‘today.’ What are we doing today to help make our lives better? Humane educational programs, for example, teaching the necessity of spaying/neutering—this for a better future. I think of a bumper sticker I saw. It read: In a perfect world, every home would have a dog; every dog would have a home.
About Ayla’s Acres: The St. Augustine-based organization supports adoption, spay and neuter, and responsible care of animals. Along with education, outreach, adoption and fostering programs, it maintains a 45-acre sanctuary where “unadoptable” animals live out their lives with peace, love and dignity They are currently trying to raise $2.6 million to build Peter’s Friends Animal Resource Center in St. Johns County. www.aylasacres.org or call 904-671-5506.