Redefining Retirement
Henry Fenwick

Retirement means very different things to different people. For some, it's a whole new life.

Three couples revel in retirement
Retirement means very different things to different people, but for some, the lucky or smart ones, it means finding new careers with a whole fresh set of satisfactions and pleasures.

We spoke to three couples who have redefined retirement for themselves and are reveling in the experience.

The Kidds
This month Bill and Owana Kidd are in Canada. Last month they were in Nairobi, Kenya. In the last 12 years they have visited 12 countries.

But these are not inveterate tourists, traveling from resort to resort. They work as volunteers, helping to set up clinics and medical facilities around the world, usually in places that are far from the comforts of even the most Spartan hotels. "We do not see vacation spots," Bill emphasizes, with relish. Working in the rain forest, he says, "we had no showers — we used a bucket."

"You didn't have to tell him that," Owana protests. "Some places there'd be electricity part of the day — or on and off." Bill laughs, "Sure we'd have running water. I'd run and get a bucket!"

The couple "retired" in 1986, when Bill was 60. He had spent a long and rewarding career in medical technology and administration, in Oklahoma, South Dakota, Dallas, and Maryland, and his wife had worked alongside him. "We met working together 45 years ago, and we've continued as a team all that time," she says. "I keep William organized."

Their frequent moves hadn't bothered her at all: "I enjoy traveling and meeting new people," she says. But retirement didn't present itself as a time for relaxation for either of them. "Nothing lives in a vacuum," Bill declares. "People in the medical field are all interested in helping people. That's what we wanted to do when we retired," he recalls.

They read in the newspaper about the desperate need for a clinic in Guatemala City, and that became the first place they went to. There they not only set up a clinic and trained nationals to run it, they also took a mobile clinic out to remote villages two days a week. Since then they have worked with their church, the Church of Christ in Highland Oaks, Dallas, and with local and national organizations such as Partners in Progress, out of Arkansas, and International Executives Service Corps, to do similar work in many different parts of the globe: Guatemala, Nigeria, Kenya, East Africa, Tanzania, Lithuania, Bangladesh.

Now they are in Manitoba setting up a science department for a small college. Every year they go to the Medical Mission Seminars held in Dallas to find out where they might be needed next, and often people they have worked with in the past contact them to see if they are available.

Giving Something Back
"We both find it very exciting," they say, though finances don't always permit them both to go. Their trips are sometimes only partly subsidized by the groups they work for, "but this is a great country and we want to pay something back. After a while your finances get pretty low," Owana explains, "so I didn't go on the last trip."

Some places have astonished them with beauty: "The Masai in Tanzania are beautiful people, tall and slender. The women are just gorgeous," Owana remembers. Other places have horrified them with their disorganization or blatant corruption. But in each place they have found enormous satisfaction in the work, with great spiritual rewards.

This year they will have spent over six months out of the country, and away from their grandchildren. If there is a downside to the experience, this is it. But theirs is a close-knit family, and the time away makes their time at home richer. What do their children think of their travels? "Oh, they think it's cool!"

A Picture of Happiness

The Lanes
When Ed Lane was a kid in high school he wanted to become a painter, but "everybody I knew convinced me that wasn't the way to make a living." So instead he took to advertising. With time he built up his own very successful advertising agency in Phoenix, Arizona, and his wife Diane worked alongside him, heading up his PR department. "Through the years I'd sign up for classes or set up a studio in the spare bedroom—then a guest would come to stay and I'd pack it all up again." Then in 1995 he and Diane decided to retire and move to Maui, while his son took over the business.

In Maui he at last applied himself to painting with the drive he'd brought to his work. "I wanted to become a serious painter, not just a hobbyist but make it another career." So he set out "to learn as much as I can, to paint as much as I can, and sell my work — which is at least some validation of the work!" Now he paints every day of the week, for about five hours, at his studio about 10 minutes from home. "I'm a really prolific painter," he laughs; "I churn them out!"

Passion and Enthusiasm
The "churning out" is the natural result of his passionate enthusiasm. "I can hardly wait to start painting every day," he says. He also applies himself to getting his work seen: he researches where there are open shows all over the United States and submits his work. He has shown at every regional show in Hawaii and has also been in exhibitions in Chicago, New Jersey, Kentucky, and Texas. He painted one of the 87 pieces selected for this year's Artists of Hawaii exhibition, chosen from 890 entries, and is represented by two galleries on Maui, two in Honolulu, and one on the Big Island. "I have no representation on the mainland on a permanent basis yet. I'm trying to pursue that. And I also have an ambition to be represented in France."

He sells regularly. His painting are now owned by people from California, New York, and France, and when we spoke he had just returned from a painting trip to the South of France, where he painted "in Van Gogh's back yard!… I have no shame — I went and painted Cezanne's mountain. I have no fear!"

He is, he says, "audacious" in his ambitions for himself. Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, he reckons, each had approximately 14-year careers in which they produced their masterpieces. "I've got that many years left. They did theirs at the beginning."

And his wife, Diane, still works beside him. Their studio is a two-story building, and on the floor above Ed, Diane pursues her own new career, creating clothes from silk she has hand-painted. She works less regularly than her husband but sometimes in greater spurts, often for 12-hour stretches. For her it's a passion that came recently, but "it's like something suddenly hits you on the side of your head and says ‘Okay, this is what you're going to do with the rest of your life.' The reality is we've been training for this all our lives," she adds. It's pent up stuff coming out."

Serving Up A New Career

The Lazares
Bud Lazare had time to chat with me after the lunch-time rush at his Togo's and Baskin-Robbins store in the Hillhurst area of San Diego, when he finally had a moment to sit down. He admits he and his wife hadn't been quite prepared for the workload when they decided to take on this new challenge, but he has no regrets. "It's changed our lives," he says firmly.

Bud had been a chiropractor for 35 years, and his wife had been a housewife. Then an injury disabled him and he had to give up his clinic. "When I got back on my feet I was going crazy doing nothing," he says. The prospect of having to work with HMOs drove him equally crazy, so he began to look around for an alternative, a business he could build up with his children and leave for his grandchildren.

He spent two years investigating the franchise possibilities, and "this looked the best on paper." The combination of the sandwich store and ice-cream parlor struck him as a good one: "When lunch and dinner quiet down, ice cream picks up."

The beginning was rough. "We weren't prepared for the work," he says. "We were convinced that the franchise group didn't want us to get through the training period. They made our lives miserable, but out of meanness we weren't going to quit. In hindsight they may have been correct, but we were correct too because we wanted it enough." He had been walking with a cane, but learned to do without it: "I couldn't have gotten through the training otherwise."

A Family Affair
The store is a family affair; his daughter-in-law, a psychologist who had burned out specializing in taking care of battered children, works with him dealing with personnel. "My wife was a housewife, never worked one day. She now works every day except Saturday. She was very shy, but she likes being around the public. Her friends come round and have lunch with her after the rush; she's grandma to all the help. She's become the most outgoing person I know, it's changed her whole personality."

For the first weeks the shop was open Bud was working from seven in the morning until eleven at night, but now the pace is easier. He starts at seven, doing the books, then the staff (he employs 22 people) arrive to set up. He and his wife are often able to leave by midafternoon. He and his wife are very religious Jews and do not work from sundown Friday until Sunday. "The first Friday night was terrifying to me — I'm letting somebody else handle the money! I drove down to the store and came in and the manager said ‘Have you come to count the register?'" He laughs at the memory; that insecurity is now long behind him. He gets pleasure from watching his staff develop.

The clientele give him great pleasure too. "The area is predominantly gay and senior citizens, it's a good combination. The gay clientele are highly educated, decent incomes, very nice, generous with their feelings to other people; they help senior citizens. And it's nice being around young people. "It's an interesting new life we've walked into. We'd gotten very old before this, we'd slowed down. I didn't realize it myself. We seem much younger now, my wife and I. Even our friends have mentioned it. We're occupied, we're busy. Never retire! It doesn't make sense."


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