Last week my father retired for the second time. His first retirement was back in 1979 after serving 26 year as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. He was 47 at that time. He never considered his military retirement to be a true retirement from the world of work. He was far too young and had far too many obligations. Three of his nine children were in college and another was a senior in high school. The youngest of the bunch was only two.
His first attempt at a second career was selling life insurance. It wasn’t a great fit, as it required meeting with potential clients in the evenings and weekends. Dad had spent much of his military career away from his family and he wasn’t willing to sacrifice any more family time. After a year of selling insurance, the perfect job opportunity became available. Mary Washington College (now the University of Mary Washington) was expanding its offerings of business courses and starting a business department. Prior to joining the Marine Corps, Dad had trained to be a teacher. After a tour in Vietnam, Dad was given the opportunity to earn an MBA. He was a perfect fit for the new department of business and was the first instructor hired.
Last week Dad completed his teaching duties at University of Mary Washington, although his official retirement date is a few weeks away. Dad also turned 80 last week. After a career spanning 59 years, Dad is certainly deserves to enjoy a leisurely retirement. However, it is unlikely that he will sit around idly. He’ll spend time with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren and cheer on the Washington Redskins and the New York Yankees. He will also continue to do taxes for the many friends who have depended on him for many years.
Many people have asked why Dad continued to work well past the normal retirement age. I always respond, “It keeps him from having to help Mom with the gardening.” The truth, however, is that he continued working because he enjoyed it and it kept him busy and engaged. Working with college students helped keep Dad young and active. It allowed him to interact regularly with his peers and young people and to keep up with changes in our society and in technology.
Working past the normal retirement age is nothing new in our family. Dad’s grandmother was irate when she was forced to retire from working in the textile mills at the age of 72. My mother’s mother was a victim of mandatory retirement when she was forced from the nursing job she loved at the age of 65. In the 1960s and 1970s, many capable adults were compelled into retirement at the age of 65. In 1978 the mandatory retirement age was increased to 70 and in 1986 it was abolished altogether.
I am thankful that the laws have been changed, allowing healthy, vigorous seniors to remain active in the workplace as long as they desire to keep working and as long as their employers feel they are continuing to contribute positively to their companies. I am grateful to the University of Mary Washington for giving Dad the opportunity to continue teaching for as long as he wanted. No one at the University ever suggested that he was too old to continue teaching. The university supported his decision to keep on teaching until he felt he was ready to retire.
I am very proud of my father’s contributions to protecting our nation and educating our young people. He has touched many lives. I pray that he enjoys a long and productive well-deserved retirement.