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Issue Date: November 2005 Issue


Creative Retirement

For six seniors, retirement did not mean slowing down. It meant more time to pursue something they've always wanted to do.


Kim Schneider

For some people, retirement may mean slowing down and relaxing, but for others it's a new chapter in their professional lives and a chance to prove that age is nothing but a number. After finishing their careers or raising children, some have found that now is the perfect time to do things they have always wanted to do, not letting anything stop them, especially their age.

PICTURE PERFECT

Delicate Japanese papers covered with images of the ocean spill on the table. The contrast of the blue ink and cream background brings out the exquisite detail of the rippling waves.

June Bonner, 86, is a photographer who works with cyanotype, one of photography's oldest printing methods. It uses a solution that, once exposed to sunlight, turns the image a dark blue.

Bonner lives at Judson Manor and works on its rooftop, creating prints from photos she has taken. "It is perfect," she says of her workspace, which allows plenty of sun. "That is how they used to do it back in [the 1800s]."

Sometimes Bonner even makes her own paper, a process that takes about a week to complete and involves mixing materials with a mallet and then placing them in a mold lined with felt to dry.

"I try to figure out how many sheets I need," she says. "I want to have plenty of extras in case I mess up."

Bonner's works have been displayed in the Cleveland Institute of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts in St. Bonaventure, N.Y., and Gallery Maronie in Japan, just to name a few. But she did not start out on an artistic path.

After growing up in Cleveland Heights, Bonner attended Case Western Reserve University to study chemistry, but dropped out of college two credits shy of graduating because she didn't have enough money and didn't want to burden her parents with the expenses. After marrying, she worked in the darkroom while her husband ran his own heating company in Cleveland.

She went on to have art displayed in the Cleveland Museum of Art's May Show. Her works are now stored in the Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, where museums and galleries can borrow pieces for collections.

"I always had an interest in photography," she says. "I like to do something that is a little different."

That's one reason Ruta Marino, senior curator of the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts, choose Bonner's works to display in a recent exhibit. "We were looking for artists working in different mediums," she says. "She has always been using technology in her art and it was interesting to see how it evolved over her lifetime."

Bonner still works diligently every day on her collections and takes time to teach classes to children, bringing them to Judson Manor and taking them up on the roof to see firsthand what she does. "I just love kids. They are fun," she says.

She has also taught teachers cyanotype techniques, which are easy to incorporate into the classroom. "I love working with teachers," she says. "Because they clean up."

PLAY BILL

A love for Cleveland has kept William DeCapite, 81, and his wife Rose, 77, always on the go. The South Euclid residents spend their days volunteering as part of the Red Coats volunteering program at Playhouse Square, where they usher, clean chandeliers and do whatever else is asked of them.

"We do it together as a team," William says. "Being a native Clevelander [who went] down to the theaters when I was young, I wanted to see the theaters continue and prosper."

The DeCapites also volunteer at Severance Hall, the Cleveland International Film Festival, the Cleveland Play House, University Circle Inc. and anywhere else that needs their help.

"It makes you feel better to do something," says Rose. "You feel like you are making a contribution."

William retired from repairing automobiles at age 63. He started fixing cars while he attended Cleveland's South High School and took a break to join the Navy during World War II. Now he has made it his duty to promote Cleveland.

"We have the best Metroparks system in the world," he says. "No matter where you live in Cleveland, you are not more than 15 or 20 minutes from a park."

He should know. The DeCapites have traveled to all 50 states and through Europe and Asia. But their favorite place to visit, William says, is none other than Cleveland. "We have so much going for Cleveland," he says, mentioning the Cleveland Metroparks, University Circle, Playhouse Square and the Cleveland Film Society.

"We always come back," seconds Rose.

When the duo are not watching "Les MisÈrables" or "Menopause: The Musical," they are hiking, biking, camping or playing bridge or tennis. "We do it for the pleasure," he says. "Not for exercise."

Sometimes they ride their bikes downtown, catch movies at the Cedar Lee Theatre and watch the Indians (and even volunteer at Jacobs Field when the Indians make the playoffs).

"We keep busy," he says. "There are so many things going on. Most of them are free and people need to take advantage of it."

THE GIFT OF WRITING

Marjorie Warren still remembers her favorite Christmas gift. During her teens, her parents would give her a piece of bird's-eye maple furniture each Christmas. She received the last piece, completing her collection, when she was 16. Ribbons from the Christmas tree flowed along the floor, right up to her gift. It was a beautiful writing desk, she says, one she still has today.

Born in 1899, Warren is now 106 years old and still has a memory as sharp as a tack. For someone who has lived in three centuries, there is plenty to remember.

Her mind is full of friends' and family's tales about Andrew Carnegie and President Franklin Roosevelt. She also remembers her mother's words of wisdom, which inspired her essay, "Me and My Weeds," published in The Plain Dealer Sunday Magazine in 2004. It's about her and her husband returning home from summer vacation and discovering that the person they hired to care for their lawn neglected the garden, which had become nothing but weeds. As she walked into the house, she received a phone call reminding her to drop off an entry for a garden show the next day. She threw the prettiest weeds together ó and won first prize. "My mother always said, ëYou can always make do with what you have,' " she explains.

And she has. Warren graduated from the University of Michigan and taught French and Spanish at a high school before marrying and raising her son. She now lives at Judson Manor, where she is free to write whenever she wants. And she does.

Warren has always had a knack for the written word, penning poems and essays since she was little. But she did not think about having anything published until a friend at Judson sent her essays to The Plain Dealer.

She's had a second essay printed in the Sunday Magazine, "An Unforgettable Moment," about a chance meeting with Eddie Rickenbacker, known for shooting down enemy planes in World War I. She's been submitting other pieces for publication. "They ask to be written," she says pointing to her heart. "I can't help writing."

Her close friend, Murray Davidson, former vice president of University Circle Inc., confirms it. "She's always writing notes," he says, glancing over at the paper and pens on her desk.

Warren smiles over at Davidson. She attributes her longevity and passion for writing to the love of her family and friends such as Davidson. "The greatest motive in life is love," she says. "It's what keeps us going. If I didn't have people loving me, I wouldn't even want to be here."

A CLOSE-KNIT GROUP

Molly Kravitz still has homework, though it doesn't require pen and paper so much as needles and yarn. The 93-year-old started the Wiggins Knitting Club at Menorah Park and works daily on her creations of scarves, mittens, hats and lap robes.

Kravitz picked up the knitting gene from her mother. "She was a beautiful knitter," Kravitz says. Her mother would only have to look at something to be able to re-create a pattern or design.

Every Monday at 1 p.m. Kravitz's club meets in the art room at Menorah Park. Members donate their work to shelters and other charities.

Most of the funds for the yarn and needles come from anonymous donors. "I don't even know who to send a thank-you note to," she says.

In 1947, Kravitz and her husband bought and opened Richard Hardware in Cleveland, and later moved it to Bedford. After retiring in 1972, the couple moved to Boca Raton, Fla., and left their son in charge.

Kravitz returned to Cleveland last year to be closer to her family. Once settled in at Menorah Park, she decided to start the group. "It is something for women to do that would be therapeutic and for a good cause," she says.

Meetings range from seven to 10 knitters. Any Menorah Park resident is welcome to join, even if they have no idea how to knit. "I taught one woman to knit that never knitted before," Kravitz says. "I consider myself a full-time knitter."

Just recently, the group sold its handiwork to raise a "considerable amount of money" for some Menorah Park members to travel to Israel.

"I look forward to every Monday," Kravitz says. "I feel very relaxed that my mind is occupied and that I contributed to mankind, after life has been so good to me."

GRAND SLAM

A social studies teacher had better know his history. Retired teacher Vance Linamen, 58, of Chagrin Falls can tell you all about the Civil War and the Declaration of Independence, but he can also tell you all about the Indians franchise from Bob Lemon to Travis Hafner.

Linamen grew up in East Cleveland, graduating from Shaw High School, where he played second base for the baseball team. "I was a Cleveland Indians fan since I was a little kid," he says. "I remember going to Municipal Stadium with my uncle and my dad."

There he would not only watch the players on the field, but also the people working at the stadium. "I was always envious of people working there," he says.

So in 1998, while still teaching at South Euclid-Lyndhurst's Memorial Junior High School, he started working at Jacobs Field for guest services at Gate A, dealing with ticket problems and bringing wheelchairs to disabled fans. "I thought this would be a great opportunity, and it's been a happy marriage ever since."

Through his teaching career, which ended in 2004, Linamen also was the athletics director, as well as a girls' basketball coach at Brush High School, Villa Angela-St. Joseph High School and, now, Regina High School.

While it was big decision for him to retire, he doesn't regret it. He still gets the occasional itch to teach. His solution? Substitute teaching. "I missed it," he says. "I love the one-on-one with kids."

That's why he became a teacher in the first place.

"I had a junior high teacher that I admired," he says. "And I followed his footsteps."

That teacher, Dr. Earl McNeilly, ended up seeing one of his children become a student of Linamen's at Memorial. "I cherished the day, the moment, that [McNeilly] came into my classroom as a parent for open house," he says. "He gave me the inspiration."

Though he retired from his first career, Linamen continues to work diligently at Jacobs Field. "I want to make sure that our fans here are treated like the great fans that they are," Linamen says.

"I wore many hats," he says of his careers. And while he has put some of those hats back on the shelf, he proudly wears the one he has on.


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