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Semi-nude calendar of elders spurs book on aging

Hugo Hollerorth, aka Mr. June, in the 2012 fund-raising calendar for First Parish in Framingham.

Lynne Damianos

Hugo Hollerorth, aka Mr. June, in the 2012 fund-raising calendar for First Parish in Framingham.

FRAMINGHAM — At 89 years old, Hugo “Holly” Hollerorth seems especially qualified to write a book on the naked truth about aging.

After all, he was one of 12 older men who appeared tastefully nearly nude in a 2012 calendar to raise money for First Parish in Framingham.

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The men’s calendar came six years after one that featured 12 mature church women in similar stages of undress. The women’s calendar sold out its printing of 2,000 copies to raise $24,000 for the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Framingham Centre. With the benefit of social media and national attention, including mentions on “Good Morning America” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” the men’s calendar — covering ages 64 to 87 — sold 2,250 copies worldwide for a net profit of $26,000.

Reaction to the calendars ranged from support, appreciation, and glee to disgust and accusations of sacrilege. For Hollerorth, the experience was thought-provoking.

He recalls a conversation he had after the release of the men’s calendar with Lynne Damianos, who had photographed all of the subjects.

“One Sunday after the men’s calendar came out, Lynne and I were talking and I wondered about the attitudes of the men and women who were photographed,” said Hollerorth, an author and retired Unitarian Universalist minister. “How did they feel, as older people living in a society that in so many ways is anti aging?”

That conversation led to their collaboration on a book, “The Naked Truth About Aging,’’ which will be available at a book-release event featuring some of the calendar models from 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Amazing Things Arts Center, 160 Hollis St. (Route 126) in Framingham.

Hollerorth will host a book release on Sunday at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham.

Hollerorth will host a book release on Sunday at the Amazing Things Arts Center in Framingham.

‘What’s important to me, as my life draws to the last stages, is what I’ve done that’s worthwhile and the legacy I’m leaving behind. Wrinkles and putting on a few pounds is secondary.’ — Carol Lawton, Framingham calendar subject

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Written by Hollerorth, the 98-page paperback was designed by Lisa Breslow Thompson and edited by Laura Matthews. All 24 of the color photographs by Damianos featured in the two calendars are included in the book, which was produced through her Framingham-based company, Damianos Publishing.

Hollerorth — who, as Mr. June, holds a strategically placed photography book of Venice, one of his favorite cities — interviewed the calendar participants about his or her experiences living in a pro-youth culture “at war with the aging body, and aging itself.” Topics explore questions such as: When did I first really notice my body was aging? How do I try to hide the visual evidence of aging? How do people respond differently to me? What is my experience with the media’s attitude toward aging? Do I feel less feminine or masculine? Am I now less desirable sexually?

“It’s quite an interesting story that older people have to tell about how they’ve coped in a society that, in many ways, pushes them aside because it says they’re useless,” said Hollerorth, noting his sadness at being asked more often about his health than his activities.

“This aging body has held my spirit for 89 years and taken me where I want to go and brought me back home, again and again and again. I don’t make any effort to hide the fact that I’m aging, or to project a youthful appearance, and the calendar men and women had the same response.”

Larry Decker, aka Mr. January, exhibited his passion for preserving the environment by posing with a blue recycling bin behind a fenced portion of his yard.

Hugo Hollerorth was one of 12 older men who appeared tastefully nearly nude in a 2012 calendar to raise money for First Parish in Framingham.

Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

Hugo Hollerorth was one of 12 older men who appeared tastefully nearly nude in a 2012 calendar to raise money for First Parish in Framingham.

A member of the town’s Recycling Action Committee, he recently cofounded a community garden adjacent to the Vernon Street church, and is leading First Parish’s capital campaign for high-efficiency furnaces and other improvements. He will travel with fellow members of the church’s Climate Action Team to the People’s Climate March on Sept. 21 in New York City.

An environmental engineer turned college professor, the 79-year-old Navy veteran said he has taken on so many projects since retiring in December that he must remember to pace himself.

“Getting old isn’t so bad. There’s still plenty to do and accomplish,” said Decker, whose calendar photo depicts a lean and muscular physique developed from a lifetime of athletics. “You don’t hear as well, or see as well, or remember as well, but you learn to work around it. My wife and I have a great marriage and a big family. My goal is to stay active and involved, and live life right up to the end.”

Volunteer teacher Carol Lawton, who is holding her late cat, Leander, to her chest in the August calendar page, said it was a “privilege” to share the experience with a group of accomplished women whom she admires.

As for her physical appearance, Lawton said, she eschews makeup, other than lipstick, and has only fleetingly wished to be taller than her 4-foot-10-inch frame. She dislikes the popular media’s stereotypical portrayal of older people as childish, and has noticed a tendency lately for store clerks to overlook her in favor of younger customers.

“I want to be treated like a person, and that doesn’t have anything to do with age,” said Lawton, 74, who teaches English as a second language. “What’s important to me, as my life draws to the last stages, is what I’ve done that’s worthwhile and the legacy I’m leaving behind. Wrinkles and putting on a few pounds is secondary.”

For chamber musician Diane Engel, posing at her piano as Ms. November was life-changing. She met Hollerorth through the book project, and they shared a commitment ceremony in February 2012.

“Women enjoy each other’s company, but mixed company is nice, too,” said Engel, noting that good health, rather than outward appearance, is most important at any age. “Love is a rare and special thing, and it’s not just for the young.”

Hollerorth jokes that it wouldn’t have taken him as long to complete the book if he hadn’t gotten “sidetracked” by falling in love.

“I robbed the cradle,” he said of his 78-year-old companion, 11 years his junior.

While acknowledging that his book’s subjects do not constitute a truly representative sample of the nation’s aging population, Hollerorth said their voices deserve to be heard — especially in contrast to the more typical warnings about the hazards of old age.

“This particular group has really taken aging in stride and found ways to continue to contribute, feel productive and active, and appreciate their relationships,” he said. “The message is enjoy your youth, but don’t fear aging. You can enjoy that, too.”

Hugo Hollerorth (left) and his girlfriend, Diane Engel, hold calendars they posed nearly nude for as a fundraiser for their church.

Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe

Hugo Hollerorth and his girlfriend, Diane Engel, hold calendars they posed nearly nude for as a fundraiser for their church.

“The Naked Truth About Aging’’ costs $20, with proceeds benefiting First Parish in Framingham.
To order online, visit store.silverstreetmedia.com
or www.amazon.com.
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