By Ingrid Howard
When the Lemaks were living off Old Leeds Road back in the late ‘70s, their biggest issue was not having any grocery stores nearby.
“You either had to go to Irondale, or you had to come all the way down Old Leeds and Cherokee to go down to what was Bruno’s at the time,” said Georgine Lemak.
Georgine read an ad in the newspaper that said there was land for sale off of Cherokee Road near U.S. 280.
“I hurried up, and we came down and we were looking at the lots,” she said. “Most of them had already sold at that time. But there were three that were left, and we chose the one at the end.”
Georgine and husband Larry, an internationally known orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, built their dream home on the 3½ acre lot. They raised three sons there, and the house was the backdrop for all of their family Christmas parties, pool parties and wedding showers for the next 35 years.
Decorating for Christmas was Georgine’s favorite.
“I used to decorate starting at the beginning of November, only because the two older ones were off to college,” she said. “I liked to have it decorated when they came home so that, when they opened the door, I’d have the Christmas music on and everything. They still to this day remember that.”
Despite having almost too many rooms to count, Larry said, his wife would give each room a theme during Christmastime, using different kinds of decorations in each room.
“We used to have very large Christmas parties,” he said. “And that was one of the fun things you could do there. It was something you could invite everybody you know to – and a lot of people you don’t know because there was a lot of room.”
Their three sons would invite their friends over to the pool, but Larry and Georgine said it’s their hot tub they miss. It was surrounded by plexiglass windows, so no matter how windy it was outside, they could enjoy being out there.
When their children moved out, got married and started their own lives, Georgine and Larry stayed in the house a little while longer. But eventually, the six-bedroom house became too big for the pair.
“We stayed there for a long time because we loved the house,” Georgine said. “It’s just so comfortable. But it was getting to the point that we just didn’t need all that space.”
A Blank Canvas to Decorate
When they put their house up for sale, their real estate agent had an idea. He suggested they let the house be this year’s ShowHouse.
“I thought, ‘Well, why not?’” Georgine said. “Because there’s really nothing in there, so they can do what they want. So I’m excited about it, I really am.”
The Decorators’ ShowHouse is an event benefiting Alabama Symphony Orchestra that started 43 years ago. Each year, a house gets an interior design makeover, and decorators have the opportunity to showcase their work. Visitors can buy tickets ahead of time or at the door, and refreshments are available as they browse through the house. The ShowHouse decorators also will host seminars throughout the event.
Working with ShowHouse is not the couple’s first contribution to the community. Larry is well known for his work to attract sporting events to the area. He was instrumental in bringing the 1996 Olympic Soccer Games to Birmingham and founded the Alabama Sports Foundation to help bring amateur sporting events to the city.
The founder of Lemak Health has treated many professional athletes; he has been medical director for Major League Soccer and the NFL’s European League. But he’s just as well known for working with younger athletes. He founded the National Center for Sports Safety to educate youth and high school coaches on the prevention and care of athletic injuries and the American Sports Medicine Institute to research sports medicine and educate physicians.
For his work, he has been inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the AHSAA Hall of Fame and the University of Montevallo Athletics Hall of Fame.
A Feeling of Seclusion
Nan Teninbaum, ShowHouse publicity chairman, said she loves the beauty of the Lemak’s former home.
“You look out the windows, I don’t care where you look out, you’re in the woods,” she said. “You’re in nature.”
When visitors come up the driveway this spring, Georgine said, they will be welcomed by the cherry and pear trees and azaleas that bloom each year. Despite being right next to U.S. 280, Larry said, the trees and foliage make you feel secluded.
The ShowHouse is planned for April 27 through May 12. For more information and updates go to svcalabama.com. When tickets go on presale, they will be available to purchase online for $20 per person. After that and at the door, the price will be $25 per person.
“I think the decorators will do a very fine job because they normally do,” Georgine said. “You’ll be happy to see it when it’s done.”