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Derry Area employee leads soap opera kind of life

As a girl, Tracey Smeltzer regularly watched the daytime soap opera "Guiding Light."

"When I came home from school, Mom had it on television," she said.

Now director of media services at Derry Area High School, she still tapes daily episodes to watch each evening. She's especially fond of actor Ron Raines, who has played the character of Alan Spaulding for almost 15 years.

Smeltzer, 40, became involved in an Internet discussion board about the show and then began writing her own GLog (Guiding Light blog), "The Spaulding Sentinel."

She later joined the official Ron Raines discussion board and volunteered to help the moderator. As a "recapper," Smeltzer summarized episodes and kept fans up to date with Raines' story line.

In 2006, the board's creator invited Smeltzer to attend the Guiding Light Fan Club Weekend in New York.

"It was one of those things where everything fell into place," she said. "I bid on a seat at a luncheon (actress) Beth (Chamberlin) was hosting as a Humane Society fundraiser. I met her, and she just impressed me with how down to earth she is."

Chamberlin plays Beth Raines, the on/off love interest of Raines' character.

Smeltzer now helps to run Chamberlin's official fan club Web site and has been hired to help get Chamberlin's storefront off the ground, where she promotes a fitness DVD.

"It's funny, I think of Tracey so much as a friend," Chamberlin wrote in an e-mail. "And because we rarely talk about the show, that word 'fan' doesn't really seem appropriate for our relationship. I would describe her as a friend who watches 'Guiding Light.'

"I believe that someone like Tracey, who can combine her knowledge of the Web with her knowledge of the show, is much more able to capture what is important to me and to my fans than any design company."

"My husband and I are so grateful our paths crossed with her," Chamberlin said. "Yes, she started off working on my fan site, but we have since hired her to work on Beacon-fitness.com, our business site, as well. Tracey is someone whose work ethic, attention to detail and ability to get things done quickly make her an asset to any team."

Smeltzer's first up-close view of Raines was at a concert by Bradley Cole, another "Guiding Light" actor, during the fan club weekend.

Raines has trained in opera and performed on Broadway. "He belted out 'House of the Rising Sun,' and everyone was on their feet. He brought the house down," Smeltzer said.

She had Raines sign a photo. But she was so excited she forgot to tell him she was helping with his site. She got back in line, and the discussion board moderator introduced her.

Raines was nothing like his TV character, she said.

"He (Spaulding) is the guy everybody loves to hate," she said. "Ron is a nice guy, very warm, very caring. ... He likes to make people laugh."

She volunteered to help Raines and Chamberlin on the autograph line. Raines later told Smeltzer she could turn her fan site into his official Web site.

He sends her photos and concert schedules to post on the site, which she runs for free.

"He gives me a lot of freedom with it," Smeltzer said.

"When I first met Tracey, she impressed me as a very bright woman who knew what she was talking about," Raines said in an e-mail. "I'm not that astute on Web sites' lingo, and she seemed to really know that world. I also felt she was very protective of the people she would work for and with."

Smeltzer enjoys the occasional perk, like the tickets Raines sent her to see his performance with the Boston Pops.

She's now the administrator of his site's discussion board, forwarding questions to Raines and posting his responses.

Beyond the world of soap opera, Smeltzer coached softball for 13 years, has coached golf for three years for Derry, and is a freelance sportswriter.

Colleagues, friends and acquaintances often ask her about the show or what certain characters are doing, but she tries not to tell.

"There's enough spoilers (on Web sites) out there," she said.

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