The Courageous 8

On Life and Love after 50 eNewsletter – March 11, 2022

By: Tom Blake – Columnist

The Courageous 8

(Today’s eNewsletter has been edited for length and clarity)

Today I mention eight courageous women whom I admire. Seven are Champs. In the future, we will do more articles on courageous Champs – both women and men– because we have a lot of them who fall under the courageous umbrella.

And what helps me identify these courageous seniors is when they email me with stories, experiences, questions, and thoughts. Here are The Courageous 8:

Champ Devone Austin Texas
Devone

Devone
Devone emailed this January saying: “I moved from Dana Point three years ago to the outskirts of Austin, Texas. 

“I just turned 63. As a single parent, I got two kids through junior high, high school, and college on my own. They are living with their partners and doing well. My daughter, 28, graduated with a degree in psychology from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and recently from nursing school in Scottsdale. She starts her first job as a RN on 1/31/22 in Arizona. She just got engaged to her college sweetheart.

“My son graduated from UC Santa Barbara. He just turned 31 and lives right on Hermosa Beach, in CA, with his girlfriend. He will be proposing to her in the next three months. He is an area manager for a large corporation 

“I have since bought a home at the Lake, outside Austin in Hill Country and plan on retiring in the next 4-5 years when my house should be paid off.  

I’m open to meeting someone in CA, AZ or around the Austin TX area, as I plan on keeping the house in Texas as a base, where there are no state taxes. I will travel a lot when I retire. I am seeking a partner who is also a strong Christian as I attend church, and God comes first with me.” 

Tom’s comment: Any parent–woman, or man– who raises a child or children on their own gets a gold star from me.

Donna

I’ve known Donna for nearly 20 years. Her significant other, Bob, and I worked for the Orange County Register newspaper years ago. I took a photo of Bob, Donna and Greta when the four of us had dinner 17 years ago.

Donna notified me last August that Bob had passed away. She said, “He was a kind and gentle soul. He moved in with me two years ago because he couldn’t take care of himself. Very sad. It was difficult.”

At Thanksgiving time, she responded to the eNewsletter about the Palm Springs Living Desert zoo by writing, “Thanks for the reminder to focus on the positive. That’s how I try to live life.”

In early December she emailed: “I am finishing up my last semester at OCC (Orange Coast College) on December 19. I count my blessings every day, and I have my daughter and friends who have been very kind and helpful, as well as pets to ease the loneliness.” 

I asked Donna last week how she was doing. Donna wrote, “I am okay, taking it one day at a time. I took care of Bob full time for two years while teaching full time, with intermittent stays for at least the last five years when he would be hospitalized and needed help when he got out. He was suffering so much at the end. Holding his hand while he died was by far the toughest thing I’ve ever done, but I wouldn’t change it if I could.

“He had such a zest for life, so I hold onto that and know he would want me to make the most of each day.”

Bob O’Linto, Donna, and Greta – 2005 (photo by Tom whose reflection is in the window)

Tom’s comment: “A simultaneous full-time caregiver and a full-time teacher for two years” explains why I consider Donna to be a courageous woman.”

Jkaren

Jkaren wrote, “I’ve lived 30 years in San Clemente and have been one of your readers for 25 years. 

“We are all blessed to live in America and have our freedom. Instead of retiring I went ahead and refired. My energy level did not waiver. At 62, I opened my 1st shop–Mobile Sewing and Upholstery—and have been serving our community ever since. I fell into repairing wet suits about 15 years ago and love my surfers who call me ‘Granny J.’

“When the pandemic hit, I loved to go to San Onofre Beach to hear the waves and read a good book, which made my days happy. 

“At 70, each summer I’d drive to BC Canada where I built custom tiny houses. Up there, I SUP (Standup Paddle Board) with beavers and wildlife and fish from a paddle board. I had no problem at the border as I’m legal in both the USA and Canada. I was part of the classic car events that opened the Talega community in San Clemente and the Beach Fire restaurant with my ‘67 Corvette. 

“Last year I came back from BC with an old 1969 classic 12ft trailer I’m restoring. The 1990 red Chevy in the picture has been in San Clemente since I moved here. My dad taught me as a kid that busy hands make the heart happy.

Jkaren towing the trailer

“What’s there in life but to live to help others and stay healthy? Granny J” 

Tom’s comment: A woman who drives from Canada to San Clemente in a 1990 Chevy pickup truck towing a 1969 trailer that she is restoring is courageous.

Norma

Norma, 84, emailed: “Your classmate Phil (from last week’s eNewsletter) who married Sue and then four months later passed away was in my church group. He liked to talk, which is why I know so much about him. In the spring of 2016, he made a trip around So Cal to see classmates–you were probably one of them. He was looking forward to his 60th class reunion; he talked about it for two or three years. Sad, he did not get to go. I read your email every week.

Tom’s comment: Any person who reads my weekly column at age 84 has great courage!

Joannah

Joannah is Greta’s daughter Tina’s mother-in-law. She’s a widow now. She and her husband Bob were special. They were kind, gentle, wise, considerate, and caring. That’s what I remember most about them when Greta and I stayed with them at their home in Mt. Pleasant, Utah about 15 years ago. We slept in their converted basement.

A year ago, although Jo was still dealing with having lost Bob, she sent me a hand-written letter of condolence in January 2021, when my brother Bill passed away. It was the only written letter I received. Jo has the same wonderful qualities my mom had, among those was an amazing empathy for others.

She emailed in early February, “It will be four years in August since I lost my sweetheart…this will be my third Valentine’s Day…and it was one of our favorite days! And still is! Gives me a reason to recall many memories of 63 years of Valentine kisses.”

Tom’s comment: “Jo is a lovely woman with the courage to love life and her family, even after her biggest loss. She’s the type of person who makes others around her feel comfortable and important. That’s a heck of a quality to have.

Althea

Althea is one of our Champs. She’s had tough issues in her life and yet exudes a positive attitude and often contributes input to the eNewsletter.

For the last 4 ½ years, she’s lived in the Yuba City, California, home of an elderly couple, Sherman and Norma, caregiving them and helping with whatever needs came up, in exchange for room and board.

Althea explains: “Sherman took me in when I was about to be homeless. In exchange, he got someone to be with Norma when he’s away on fishing trips, someone to help with meals, etc., and to be here anytime he’s out running errands and away for a few hours.

“Norma’s dementia is still in the mid-stages, and she hasn’t gotten much worse since I moved. Norma can be a handful and she argues a lot and asks the same questions repeatedly…within minutes sometimes.”

Althea emailed an update last week: “I wanted to share my excitement and tell you about my new PAD! (hippie speak).  I drove 1 ½ hours to Placerville on Tuesday and signed the lease on my new place. It’s only going to be $365. a month for rent, – YIPPEE – and had to give a security deposit of $500. I wrote them a post-dated check because my Soc. Sec. money doesn’t go into my bank until the 3rd. I told the new landlord, “Please don’t deposit it until today.

“Then yesterday I called movers for quotes, and I have a 5-star rated company coming to pack me on Sunday, THIS SUNDAY (March 6), and then they will move me on Monday.

“I AM SO PSYCHED. My credit cards will skyrocket again!  But I’ll be in my own place and damn, the bill collectors can try and pry me out of that place! LOL.

“I hope my story gives willpower to women to keep persevering even when things look bleak or hopeless.”

Tom’s comment:  Althea’s story will nudge Champs to realize how fortunate they are.

Geody

Geody is a woman of enormous courage and strength. She lives in San Juan Capistrano, Ca. Her husband Richard founded Dana Point Auto Service years ago. He was a classic in Dana Point. One of most recognized people in our small city of 30,000 people. Together they did much for charity.

Geody was Richard’s strength. She was a caregiver to him for the last few years. He passed away in 2021. She continues to manage and oversee Dana Point Auto.

At a recent Dana Point Chamber of Commerce mixer, Greta and I met Geody’s and Richard’s children and grandchildren. What a beautiful family.

Not only does Geody arrive at Dana Point Auto most everyday in the morning, but she personally drove her SUV across the country with only her dog for company to see her daughter and grandkids in Florida, while staying overnight at SUV parks, along the way. To do that solo takes courage. Plus, she’s in her 70s.

Candice

Candice Appleby with sea lion pup she rescued by hand

Candice is not a senior nor a Champ. In fact, she’s about half our age. But she’s a woman of courage. Her office is small, about 12 feet by 24” wide. It’s a SUP (stand-up paddleboard). Every day at work, Candice faces the elements: great white sharks, sea lions, pelicans, and often iffy weather.

She’s usually at work by 8 a.m., on the ocean, giving SUP lessons to men and women who are hoping to become accomplished paddle boarders.

She’s one of the best woman paddleboarders in the world, having won several world competitions. 

I personally witnessed Candice’s courage a year ago (and wrote about it in our eNewsletter) when she saw an injured baby sea lion, trying to swim while gasping for air in Dana Point Harbor. Sea lions have razor-sharp teeth. Yet, she lifted the pup onto her paddleboard and had a friend who was with her contact the Marine Mammal Rescue Center via cell phone.

When Candice reached Baby Beach, 20 minutes later, a rescue team was waiting on the shore to whisk the injured pup to its facility in Laguna Beach. I took the picture of Candace with the sea lion at Baby Beach.

Candice is an inspiration to the many senior women and men who take paddling lessons from her (often at 8:00 a.m.).

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As I stated above, we will do more columns about our courageous Champs—men and women–as the stories arrive in my inbox.

Author: tpblake

Tom Blake is a newspaper columnist in south Orange County, California. He has published four books. His primary topic is finding love after 50 and beyond, sometimes far beyond, for people 80 and older as well. He also blogs about travel at TravelAfter55.com.

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