Grads found fulfilling paths, planned or not

Day by Day
Grads found fulfilling paths, planned or not

By Liz Thompson

Jun 16, 2019
This Week News

Fifty years ago this month, I was one of nearly 400 high school seniors from Westerville (South) High School (in Ohio) who marched to “Pomp and Circumstance” to receive our graduation certificates.

Looking back, my main regret is I did not ask for help in my studies. Instead, I relied on my music ability to get me through life and onto my goal to become a music teacher.

That never happened. Best-laid plans and all that. But I know I’m not alone.

My classmates have tried to keep track of each others’ whereabouts over the years, yet we have lost track of about 60. As far as we know, 81 live in 29 other states, one lives in Newfoundland, one in France and two in Japan.

In 50 years, we know 49 classmates have died.

Dee (Weaston) Standish was a classmate of mine from kindergarten on. She now lives in Marietta. Her best-laid plans worked for her.

“My career turned out just the way I hoped it would,” she said. “I became a teacher, allowing me to work with children every day. I was in education until I retired.

“My advice to graduating seniors is to follow your passion, and it will help you find fulfillment in your chosen career.”

Barbara (Ralston) Thurber and her husband have lived in Austin, Texas, for 30 years.

“I would tell a graduating senior that life is going to give them many challenges,” Thurber said.

Her life has been interesting as a nurse.

“I served in the Air Force and have worked at many different places,” she said. “I have used my knowledge to take care of myself, my mother with cancer and my three daughters.”

Now her health prevents her from traveling to Ohio for our 50-year reunion.

Classmate Jim Garvie, now in Oklahoma, said his high school days were riddled with poor grades and anonymity as an introvert.

“No one gave me an outlook into what I could be or what I could do in the future,” Garvie said. “The moment I graduated and went to Bowling Green State University, it all changed. Loved college life, less structure and a reason to enjoy life.”

As his grades improved, he became involved in sports for the first time and began a major in physical education and teaching.

He found coaching and teaching health, science and driver’s education fun.

“I cannot believe I ended up in a career where I was paid to have fun,” Garvie said. “It’s the last thing I ever thought I would do in life.”

He knew there were students in high school who were like him at that age – unmotivated and with no clear future ahead.

“In classes, I developed a reward system where kids that behaved and did their work could earn extra credit and get the grades they wanted,” he said. “In football, I was able to get them involved as a team manager or actually on the teams, even if they were not athletically gifted.”

As a result of his teaching and coaching, he was hired by the Department of Defense to teach and coach on military bases in Japan, South Korea and Italy.

Many of my classmates are grandparents and have life experiences we never thought possible 50 years ago.

We sent a reunion survey to learn what people wanted to happen at the event.

Most wanted time to casually visit and reconnect, see memorabilia of our high school days and walk through the school building. They would love to see teachers and let them know the impact they had on their lives.

Music of the 1960s will play; name badges will halt the awkward moments because we have all changed in appearance. Laughter and maybe tears will happen along with memories.

Classmates from Massachusetts, Nevada, Kentucky, Wisconsin and all around Ohio will gather Aug. 3 to celebrate the 50-year mark in our lives. More than once, we will say, “Has it really been 50 years?”

We learned from our experiences and are wiser for them.

Take heed, graduates. Time passes quickly.

Camping, fires naturally inspire story swapping

Day by Day

Camping, fires naturally inspire story swapping

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 11, 2015

This Week News

Nothing sparks storytelling like a campfire on a cold night. The flames reach toward the sky and faces are lighted by an orange glow.

Step away from this ring of fire and cold and dark greet you. A friendly voice might call you back and you gladly comply.

Conversation is easy, often animated, and uninterrupted by cellphones, computers or televisions. The only “electronics” would be a flashlight to push back the darkness outside the ring.

Most adult campfire stories hold none of the spookiness children have shivered to for ages. Adult stories are history, with a little embellishment thrown in to make it more interesting. History, no matter the timespan, is best told by those who lived it, or what’s passed along generation to generation or camper to camper.

Gather people in the same campground — campfire or not — who are invigorated by fresh air and an unhurried pace, and the stories begin.

As my brother-in-law, Richard, says, “You get complete strangers, with almost nothing in common, together in the campground and suddenly you are best buddies!”

He’s right on target.

“Did you know there’s an 82-year-old woman who camps here all summer? Pulls the trailer herself and her grandson sets it up for her.”

“I thought you could only camp here two weeks?”

“Well, don’t cha know, after two weeks, she goes to town for a day and comes back!”

Did you hear about the woman who hiked every day and to the 6,593-foot summit of Mount LeConte in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 718 times, the last time in her 80s? Many people hiked with her over the years and remember her as a gentle leader.

In our much younger years, we hiked almost all the trails in the Smokies, with three children leading the way. We never hiked as far or high as Mount LeConte, but made it partway.

Those days are gone for us, but we have the sweet memories of long, quiet hikes with our children in nature. Yes, blisters, too, but those were long since deemed part of the experience.

These days, we walk the campground roads while we look, listen and take it all in. Twice we set out for such a walk but we got no farther than two campsites spaced a good distance apart, where we stopped to talk with fellow campers as young as 2. Twice we talked long enough that it was time to head back to our site.

“Your goldens (retrievers) are beautiful,” I said from a fair distance.

“They’re old, like me.”

I moved closer to visit. This man, Bill, reminded me of my late father-in-law, a great storyteller. Bill and his wife, Jean, were from Knoxville and their goldens were 12-year-old brothers. That I learned in less than two minutes.

All it takes is a wave and, “It’s a beautiful day,” or “Did you hear the storm last night?” or something similar. Then you wait and listen.

People camping in a national park are typically from all over the U.S. and beyond. In the Great Smoky Mountains, we have met people from Canada, the West Indies, Arkansas, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, Indiana, Illinois, Virginia, West Virginia, North and South Carolina, Michigan, Mississippi and, of course, Ohio.

Regional accents abound. Of course, being from Ohio, we have no accent, right? Wrong, or so I’ve been told.

“You from up North?” someone might ask. But it sounds more like “Noruth.”

Listening to a story told by a man from Mississippi was a real experience. Correction, stories. Once he got started, he couldn’t seem to stop. We had nowhere to go and nothing to do. The lilt in his words made us want to listen; made us “smaale (smile).”

My cochlear implants allow me to hear speech clearly, and accents from different places in the U.S. and from other countries are music to my ears. I take every opportunity to listen.

I wonder if Southerners go home and talk about the Northerners they met?

During our October trip, we also met an X-ray technician who has retired five times; a photographer from Florida waking early to capture the sunrise over the mountains; friends from Tennessee we’d met two years ago; and others whose stories still crop up in conversation.

But mostly we met people yearning to feel a connection to others and to nature, if only for a short time.

Thanksgiving is near. After the pumpkin pie, why not swap a story, or two? Campfire optional.

 

Help available for local seniors

Day by Day

Help available for local seniors
By Liz Thompson
ThisWeekNews

Wednesday April 16, 2014

Like it or not, we are aging, every day. When we find our first gray hair and start noticing how many stairs there are — everywhere — life starts changing.

Most of us, once settled in a home and community, want to stay there and keep our independence. To do that safely takes planning, but it can be done.

Two Ohio legislators, state Reps. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Michael Stinziano (D-Columbus), have taken steps to help that happen. They sponsored House Bill 84, the Ohio Home Renovation Tax Credit.

According to the legislation, it “would provide up to a $5,000 non-refundable income tax credit for the costs incurred to modify an existing home.”

The bill states, “The accessibility features promoted in HB 84 represent an evidence-based prevention strategy that has been shown to reduce the incidence of falls among older adults.”

HB 84 says home modification promotes independent living. Getting the legislation passed is still in the works.

Some safety measures homeowners can take include having good lighting and working smoke alarms, clearing walkways inside and out, removing loose rugs, and installing grab bars in the bathroom/shower/tub and sturdy handrails on both sides of stairs.

If falling is an issue, especially when living alone, an optional alert system might be a good call. A person wears a bracelet or pendant with a button to push when he or she falls and needs assistance. Learning to use a cane, walker or scooter can help a person get around safely and is worth thinking about.

When help becomes a necessity, we may not know where to turn. The good news is there are answers.

The Franklin County Office on Aging has a Senior Options program that funds three suburban call centers that offer well-being checks via telephone and other services.

Judy Lewis, activity and outreach leader at the Evans Senior Center in Grove City, said its Senior Call program ( 614-277-1060) began because Jackson Township paramedics saw many seniors or people with disabilities who were alone and had few resources. They contacted her and with her help, the fire and police departments developed the program in 2004.

“We get calls from all over, not just the Grove City area, because we are in the Senior Options brochure,” Lewis said. “I can’t turn them away.”

She meets applicants in their homes to learn about their needs, when they want a phone call and to match them with the right volunteer.

“It’s a rewarding opportunity for the volunteers,” Lewis said.

Grove City offers Smart911 for residents. This free service allows citizens to create a safety profile on smart911.com for their household that includes any information they want 911 to have in the event of an emergency.

Upper Arlington offers Kind Call (614-442-4016), a telephone check-in service that is free for residents. The automated calling system tries each phone number up to three times; if there is no answer, a dispatcher tries. If that fails, a police officer checks the residence.

UA also has the File of Life program. Information pouches were mailed to residents age 60 and older to fill out with medical and contact information to display on their refrigerators. It helps emergency personnel know where to look when responding to a 911 call.

“It’s important to stay engaged physically and socially. Stay strong and have a system in place where someone checks on you. We need to watch out for each other,” said Amy Schossler, director of the Upper Arlington Commission on Aging.

She suggests contacting local senior centers for information and to find ways to stay involved in the community.

Westerville’s Safe Call (614-901-6790) is free to anyone who is homebound, disabled or elderly and lives within city limits or in Blendon Township. If no one answers the automated call at the set time, the call goes to a designated backup person to check on the resident. If that fails, a paramedic and police officer go to the home.

“It has no restrictions of age or need. Anyone who feels the need to receive a check-in call can sign up,” said communication technician Kippy Shurman.

Westerville Chief Fire Marshall Paris Smith-Higbie is in charge of fire inspection, investigation and public education.

“Prevention is important and we offer home fire safety inspections upon request,” he said. “We point out fire and tripping hazards and how to correct them and we make recommendations for things like handrails.”

Call (614-901-6600) to request an inspection.

These towns offer more than I can write here. Check your city offices for what might be available or contact the Franklin County Office on Aging at 614-525-5230 or officeonaging.org for more information about available assistance.