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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy John and Cynthia Robins took a 50th anniversary trip to Jamaica helped by money John earned at Wal-Mart – a job he took after having retired twice.

  • Culberton

  • Richardson

  • Grames 

  • Courtesy photo John Robins used part of his pay from working at Walmart to take his wife, Cynthia, to Jamaica to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  

  • Courtesy photo John Robins used part of his pay from working at Walmart to take his wife, Cynthia, to Jamaica to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.  

Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:00 am

Restless retirees return to workplace

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Daniel Culberton likes to keep busy.

“I always say it's not what you retire from, it's what you retire to,” he said during a recent phone interview. “We all need goals and purpose.”

The 75-year-old speaks from experience. Culberton, an ordained minister, retired 10 years ago from his United Methodist parish in western Ohio. It took only six months for him to wonder what came next. The answer was an on-call chaplain position at Dupont Hospital, where he still works.

Welcome to the land of the unretired – folks who thought they were leaving the work world only to return because they sorely missed something about it, besides the money. These people in their 50s through 80s retired on pensions or savings – or both – but ultimately woke up to the fact that there's more to life.

This unretirement trend continues to build, according to a 2017 Rand Corp. study showing that 39 percent of Americans 65 and older who are currently employed had previously retired. And more than half of those 50 and older who are not working and not searching for work said they would work if the “right opportunity came along,” the study found.

“We have a mistaken image of life, that you go to school, work for 40 years, then say goodbye to colleagues for the last time and embrace the leisure life,” said Chris Farrell, author of “Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life.” “That's not turning out to be the arc of most people's lives.”

This isn't necessarily about older people returning to work because they need the dough. This is about older people returning to work because they miss the challenges, the accomplishments and, most important, the collegiality.

When retirees are asked what they miss most about pre-retirement life, the No. 1 answer is typically colleagues, Farrell said.

“What's constantly underestimated is that work is really a community. It turns out it's much healthier and more satisfying to work for a bad boss than to sit on the couch and watch TV,” he said.

John Robins sure didn't like being idle after 36 years as a full-time General Motors assembly plant worker.

The Fort Wayne man, who retired from the factory in 2004 at age 57, took off just a couple of months before starting a bus route for Fort Wayne Community Schools.

“It had a lot to do with needing something to do,” the 70-year-old said.

Robins, who got his first job at 14, didn't know how to keep busy if he wasn't working. And it probably didn't help that his wife, Cynthia, was still working. She retired in 2009 from Blackhawk Middle School.

Robins stayed on his bus route for five years before he also retired in 2009, his second time.

You can guess what's coming.

Although financially secure, Robins decided he'd like to earn a little extra money to treat his wife to an unforgettable 50th anniversary trip to Jamaica. So he took a part-time job at Wal-Mart, where he's been stocking the candy displays for the past 31/2 years.

“We didn't want to spare anything,” he said. “We got a five-star resort and did it up right.”

The couple met at age 15 in Kansas City, Missouri. He was working as a bus boy and janitor at a drive-in restaurant, the kind of joint that serves burgers, fries and milkshakes. She showed up to fill in for her cousin for just three weeks.

On her very first day, John fell for Cynthia. They remain smitten with each other.

So, with his third retirement scheduled for the end of this month, John Robins is eager to spend more time traveling with his sweetheart. The fitness enthusiasts plan to visit their two daughters, four grandchildren, one great-grandson and various aunts and uncles, who are spread across the country.

Robins doesn't believe in following an imposed timeline for leaving the workforce.

“Nobody knows when you're ready to retire but you,” he said.

Shirley Richardson knew in 1997, the year she retired from the DeKalb County Plan Commission. She was 63 at the time.

That didn't last long.

“I was home two months, and my husband looked at me and said, 'Go get a job,'” she recalled. “I had cleaned every closet in the house, and you can only do so much cleaning. I was driving him crazy.”

Richardson grew up on a farm and was used to being busy. Also, her husband, Arthur, was engaged in his second career at the time.

The Auburn woman went to work for Ace Hardware, where she stayed for 10 years. After re-retiring at 74, it only took her two weeks to jump back into the workforce.

An elder at her church first confirmed that Richardson knew how to use a computer. With that requirement out of the way, he kindly informed her she was the new secretary-treasurer.

Richardson, 83, reports to work three days a week at Auburn Church of Christ. Shirley and Arthur, 87, typically show up there about five days a week, including for a Bible study class.

When they aren't at the church, the Richardsons can be found on the golf course when the weather permits.

They each play five or six times a week in the summer. The winter months are spent visiting friends in the hospital, knitting and crocheting.

Richardson, who has no chronic health problems, wouldn't dream of plopping herself in front of a TV for the day. That, she said, is how you get old.

Jim Grames Sr. doesn't know the meaning of “old.” The Marine Corps veteran of Korea retired after 20 years at International Harvester at age 63.

“After playing three-handed pinochle for a month, it was getting boring,” he said.

So the Fort Wayne man hired on as a driver for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where he still works today, 21 years and more than 1 million miles later.

Grames, 85, drives cars that Enterprise has retired from its rental fleet and is selling to used-car dealers. In the early years, his trips included Texas, Kansas, Virginia, New York and even Canada.

These days, Grames' road trips are limited to Indiana.

“It's a wonderful job. I like driving,” he said.

Cathy McBride, Grames' daughter, admires her father's active lifestyle, which includes card playing two nights a week and a seat on his neighborhood association's board.

“He is, to this day, one of the hardest-working men I know,” she wrote in an email. “And (he) taught this work ethic to all of his seven children.”

Kaiser Health News contributed to this story.

sslater@jg.net