Yesterday's Magazette

16 – A New Beginning

A  New Beginning

By Dade Cunningham

How do you see retirement, a new beginning or something else?


I had always said I would never retire. I told my supervisors that they would just have to force me to quit work. Retirement to me had always meant to just sit and wait to die. That was because almost everyone I knew who had retired sat at home and did nothing. ymvada2

However, circumstances can change our thoughts, and change our direction in life. With the installation of a new computer system in our office at Foothill College in 1989, my job became a nightmare. The computer was a huge frustration for me.

For all of the 26 years I worked for Foothill College, Los Altos Hills, California, my health had been good, except for a stomach ulcer that had not caused me to miss days at work. In 1990 there was a drastic change. I went to the hospital with a hemorrhage.

After my recovery, I decided I did not need the stress of the computer along with the everyday stress of living in this ever-changing world. I would start doing all the things I wanted to do, but never had the time to do. Retirement did not have to mean the end of living, but a new beginning. Just another exciting chapter of life to live.

On January 31, 1991 I entered the Registrar’s office at Foothill College for my last day at work. After 26 years, at the age of 62, I was retiring. As I walked into the office, it appeared to be the same as any other morning. My friend and supervisor, Eileen Paulsen, was at her desk. We were usually the first in the office at 7:00 AM. However, this was not going to be a usual day.

My retirement day was February 28, 1991. However, I had 27 days of paid vacation I would use and not return to work. I would continue to be free from the 7:00 AM entrance into the registrar’s office. That was a sobering thought. I would miss seeing all my Foothill College family, but I didn’t want to dwell on that thought. After all, I could drop in anytime.

When the official 8:00 AM office opening time came, all 14 of my co-workers had arrived. We set about doing our own special duties. The phones started ringing. There was the tap-tap on the computer keyboards, the hum of the printer. All the sounds of a busy office. A few minutes later the students came in to make requests for a transcript of their records be sent to other colleges and other locations. Some came to pick-up drop/add cards, and to make use of the many other services of the registrar’s office.

My primary job was to send out those transcripts as soon as possible. I sent out as many as 20,000 copies of their records per year. That day I would not get a lot done on my job. Around my desk there was an atmosphere of celebration. Denise Korn, my assistant, would do most of the work. She would take over my job after I left.

That day, as usual, I had the radio playing on my desk. Eileen came to me and told me to be sure to have the radio tuned to a local radio station, KEEN, at 9:00 AM. She had called the station disk jockey to ask that he play a certain song dedicated to me. At exactly the time she had asked for the song to be played, the disk jockey came on and said, “The next song is for Vada Williams who is retiring after twenty-six years working in the Registrar’s Office at Foothill College.” When the song started to play, the entire office was in hysterics with laughter. The name of the song was “Take This Job and Shove it.” That really set the theme for the rest of the day.

The tradition at Foothill College for a retiree was to be given a party on their last day at work. Everyone is expected to attend these events to convey their goodbye and good wishes. Some of these people do not know the person retiring, or they do not especially like the person, and appear only because it is expected of them. Some come for the food being served.

I had decided I wanted to see only people who really cared that I was leaving. I broke tradition by notifying the administration I did not want a party. I posted a letter in the staff lounge inviting those who wanted to say goodbye to drop by my desk anytime that day until 4:00 PM. (Would this make me a maverick?) It was a busy, happy, and yet sad day for me.

Thirty-nine people stopped by my desk that day. Heading the parade was Tom Clements, President of Foothill College. Not one, I am sure, came because it was their duty. The day went hurriedly by. One friend brought a cherry cheese cake, others brought cookies and gifts. All brought their good wishes for a happy retirement.

At 4:00 PM, I was ready to leave as I had each day of work for the last 26 years. I had taken most of my personal belongings home a few days before. That day, I took home the gifts and best wishes from true friends. I was ready to start a new and exciting chapter in my life. A New Beginning!

Now after 19 years, I can say retirement is everything but waiting to die. I have enjoyed every minute. There has been no time to be stressed doing all the things I like doing: travel, reading, and writing. I served a few years with the Federated Women’s Clubs. I have volunteered in several sites around the city where I live.

In 2000, I went back to a Foothill College off-campus site for eight more years. I worked part-time during registration periods. At the same time, I also went to work part-time for the California Land Management as an official trail ranger on the Stevens Creek Trail. I love the outdoors, watching the birds and other small animals I see on the creek along the trail.

Retirement really is a new beginning.

Vol. 36 No. 4 – Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter – 2009-2010


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