About Senior Wisdom
“Senior Wisdom” shares the wealth of life experiences of our senior community members and applies its wisdom to current circumstances in the world. This broadcast program provides the listener with the benefit of wisdom earned through the life experiences of a senior citizen. The program is meant to be an honest, heartfelt and slightly persuasive discussion that acts as a guide for a listener who desires to make a difference but has no senior mentors in their life.
Tova Rotleng-Cohen lived through the tragedies of war as a very young, blue eyed, blonde Jewish girl living in Poland, and later, in Palenstine in the 1930s. Yes, you are right. This was immediately before the German army marched into Poland at the start of WWII. Fortunately for Tova, her Grand Father, Isaac Meyer Goldwin, who lived in Norway, persuaded Tova’s parents to send her, quickly, to Palestine. He recognized a war was on the verge and sent a ticket for Tova to have a means to get to Isreal. This act by a Grandfather that she never met saved Tova’s life. Because of this, she survived, but the atrocities of the Holocaust impacted every other Jewish relative living Poland. They were never seen again. Tova grew up in a family that lived with the guilt that they were the only family members that survived the Holocaust. To be happy in her home was considered a sin. It was too difficult. Tova tells her story of how she unexpectedly reunites with the memories of her grandfather and was given an opportunity to give tribute to him. Her story is expressed with memories of uncertainties in her lifetime and how she exercised hope and belief to overcome her many life challenges. Tova points out how the polio pandemic of her time concerned many but it didn’t last forever. A reminder that today’s COVID epidemic also will not be forever in today’s world. Hope and belief are paramount when coping with the many challenges that life brings us. Tova shares with us these important virtues that will also serve each of us when the unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances occur in our futures. Senior Wisdom is ready to share another “Golden Nugget” so adjust the volume on your laptop or handheld device and soak in to a conversation with Tova Rotleng-Cohen.
Seeing tragedy as a child of five years old is a scary and confusing experience that left many questions in Marcella Hart’s young mind. Marcella talks about the feelings and sense of knowing that she had when asked to go to the funeral of her friends that lost their lives when their father’s depression saw no other way out. Young Marcella knew that a big price was paid through the deaths of her friends and their family. It was an easy way out but not the right way. The gift of life goes way beyond how our society measures success and happiness. The amazing gifts of existence are wrapped up in the gray areas of life. Mistakes are only learning experiences, a beginning of an awareness of new ways to look at our circumstances and a stepping stone to our next chapter in life. Although Marcella hasn’t completely unraveled the mysteries and lessons behind these tragic events, she defies accepting the external circumstances. She makes herself available to discover the deeper meaning and message by not judging tragedy and being ok with quietly sitting while not knowing the answer.
Marcella is about to share with me memories of a great opportunity as a 17-year old followed by a tremendous disappointment. She is very grateful for her past experience and understands that not being in control with the outcome of a situation is not the correct attitude. We have a choice on how to react when disappointments occur. Marcella is truly grateful for this experience. She suggested that we always keep asking ourselves: What can we learn from situations that we experience? Humility is a big deal and there is other unexpected value that we can learn from when we let go of one perspective and choose another.
Having a mentor that helps our growing youth or offers wisdom and guidance as an adult is not always available to everyone. Ed Bonner’s past is different. He really hit a home run. Ed has had three mentors in his life. His Dad was a tremendous influence to him and his friends. He was a teacher, counselor and coach; all wrapped up into one. Not only was his Dad a beacon for Ed, but he had two more mentors. Jack Sanchez (HS track coach and teacher) and an elderly gentleman by the name of Paul Yokote also provided guidance, wisdom and an example of what good can be gleaned from life with the right attitude and reasoning. Polio changed Paul’s life at 13 years old. Ed remembers Paul Yokote as a wheel chair bound gentleman who didn’t complain or consider his health circumstances as a restriction. Great opportunities found their way to Paul. Ed feels that Paul’s behavior, his enthusiasm and attitude inspired everyone; to such a degree that one of the High School buildings was given his name. All these gentlemen in Ed’s life presented a tremendous gift to those that came in contact with them; the gift of giving, a contagious attitude and an unconditional acceptance to others.
Allen Archer is a retired Californian that exercises his passion by working at the County Library in Nevada County, California. He leads the library in promoting and supporting literacy programs to help motivated youth and adults, the blind and visually impaired individuals in improving their reading skills. He remembers what it was like, as a youth, to be a below average reader and how his attitude and determination provided the perseverance necessary to develop his reading skills. Allen’s gift is to encourage the key to success; the ability to communicate through written words.
Gary Quayle has always been motivated to achieve, maybe to his detriment. His professional choices lead him to the education professions and found himself in Washington D.C. Just when he was at his career peak, he was asked to part ways with his Washington employer. At 52 years old he had to start over. After moving to San Francisco and always coming in second in his job searches, Gary started his own company. He learned that even if your life seems to fall apart, listening to people and exercising patience, wisdom, insight and tenacity will carry you through your worst times. Everyone is on their own journey.
At 84 years young and a tall, 6 foot two inch healthy set of bones, Lowe Robinson reminisces his early years working on the family farm. There were no tractors, only horse power and Lowe had to do most of it by hand. Horses pulled the hay to the barn. Once at the barn, Lowe would hoist the hay up and into the barn. Probably the best fuel for those hard working days was his grandma’s lunches; the best lunches around. At the end of the day, Lowe walked away with a hard earned dollar and satisfaction of a job well done. When 14 years old and in high school, Lowe had contacted the local ranchers and found out that they could use a hand bailer. It would really make life easier for everyone. Well, Lowe and his Dad took a drive one day down to Marysville, California and then over to Reno, Nevada to buy the vehicles that they would use to assemble a solution to the ranchers hay issues. He and his Dad used their heads and hands to make an improvement on this important need. Making a buck requires looking for an opportunity by really listening to people. Somebody always needs something. Everything is possible. Lowe says, “Be the first one to wake up each morning and the last one to go to bed.”
Getting married wasn’t on the mind of Lew Sitzer until after returning from his civil rights project in Mississippi and civilian tour in the war torn country of Vietnam. Those experiences left Lew pretty bruised by the harshness that he observed. Returning to America he met his wife and was married in 1969. Life as a couple had many plateaus. Lew and Eddie kidded that they had gone through 2-4 divorces and 2-4 marriages in working through their shared circumstances. Lew rededicated himself to his marriage on their 20th anniversary. He told me that he learned what love really is from his wife. Marriage is where he experienced a lasting persistence, a trust, intimacy that only comes from closeness between two people. Struggles associated with bringing up children and building a home with limited finances presented opportunity that ultimately strengthened his relationship with Eddie. Today, Lew misses his wife of 44 years. He recognizes that love really has provided a purpose, direction and meaning to his life. This love lives forever.
Things have really changed since May Lawrence was a child in northern Maine. Back in the day, May’s small town home had no electricity or running water in the house. Her family’s water well not only provided her family with water but also became a popular resource for the entire neighborhood. May’s father took a train to work every day. Telephones were found in town only. There were no televisions and cell phone and iPads had not even been dreamed about. There was a lot of poverty in this small Maine town but no one knew that they lacked anything. May’s household was a happy place. She has always appreciated what she has but realizes now that she can be very happy in her life with a lot less than she lives with today. It’s important to not take what we do have for granted.
Jerry and May Lawrence have been married for 59 years and life couldn’t be better. He remembers first meeting his wife, May, while registering at Los Angeles State College. Each had signed up for a class on “Growth and Development of Early Human Life”. Well, one thing leads to another. Sharing ideas on one of their school projects created opportunities for time together and it wasn’t long before Jerry really knew he wanted to marry May. The main problem that seemed insurmountable at the time was marrying outside his Jewish faith. Now, it’s 59 years later and you can guess how this story goes. Jerry and May have had a wonderful 59 years of life together; traveling, lots of interests, really an ideal situation.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Bob Berman grew up in a family that stayed in the city except for an annual trip to the Tahoe area. It was always Bob’s preference to go with the flow of life and not take big risks in life. It was the easiest thing to do. Unfortunately, his love with the outdoors was not satisfied because there was no easy way to get to the country hills. Bill also spent most of his professional life as a public defender. He never wanted to start his own law practice because it to, was too risky. Bill’s suggestion to other people who avoid taking risk in their lives is to be honest with your true desires, have the courage to move forward and know that you will pass through any tough spots. This wisdom will also serve each of us when the unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances occur in our futures.
At eight years old, money was very scarce so Lowe Robinson, with the encouragement from his grandmother, decided to sell his grand parent’s currants to the Cornish people living in town. He saved strawberry baskets and filled them with currants. Finding space on his cousin’s wagon, he went to town and knocked on every door. He never got very far and his currants were all sold out. He really got excited. Both his grandmother sharing the currants on their farm and his grandfather’s dairy work taught young Lowe Robinson to listen for community opportunities and apply them into the world. The amazing thing was, Lowe’s Dad, who greatly influenced him, had a false limb from the knee down and still could work Lowe into the ground. Lowe emphasized the importance in being a good friend to people and listen to what is being said. The challenge in life is to see if you can make an income and put people to work at the same time. If you need some help, you ask for it. It always comes down to doing things together.
Born and raised in the Los Angeles area during the 1950s and 60s, Lew Sitzer developed a curiosity to know more about the world. As a casualty of the civil rights movement, Lew’s graduate professor suggested that he join the “International Voluntary Service” and go to another part of the world to help an underdeveloped country. This experience was supposed to provide some quiet times to reflect on Lew’s past experiences in Mississippi. Well, it didn’t. He was placed in a remote village in Laos, Vietnam. As you would expect, Lew witnessed many of the tragedies of war. After an accidental bombing at the village that he lived in, Lew decided that he didn’t want to be a martyr to the Vietnam War and came home. Once home, he received his draft notice to fight in Vietnam. Lew’s realized wisdom is; War is, in most cases, not worth it.” He recognizes that our influence on one another includes taking care of ourselves and each other. Caring starts in the communities where we live and extends beyond.
Ron Spiller served during the Korean War as a military tank driver for two years. When he came home from Korea, he had a wife and a two year old son waiting for him. Starting a new family and finding an occupation that could support them was in the forefront of his mind. His first step was to work and go to night school. Soon he received a business management degree and was ready to find a career job. He knocked around for a while, attempting to find a job that he liked. He enjoyed seeing the product of his work. This desire eventually led him into manufacturing. Manufacturing was a good place for Ron. He became employed in a variety of companies and jobs that exposed him to all the departments necessary to run a manufacturing company. His dream of running a manufacturing company was soon achieved. Ron reaches out to today’s men and women. He emphasizes the need to have patience and not give up on your passion. At some point you will reach a pivotal moment which will direct you into the perfect career and job. Always be alert and look for these opportunities.
Bill Drake was born in Norfolk, Virginia with roots in Mississippi. In fact, Bill’s mom and her parents and grandparents had accumulated experiences in the Ku Klux Clan, slave plantations and serviced as a Corneal in the Civil War. Bill’s mom was actually brought up with the help of a black woman. White supremacy attitudes and behaviors were quite active in Bill’s young life. At 17, Bill had a transforming experience. He was on a bus witnessing the disrespectful behavior of his cousin towards a respectful black woman. A year and a half later, Bill asked his older brother while driving together if it was right to look down on people that are a different color from them. His brother had the perfect answer. No. This was one of the shortest conversations in his life and one of the most profound. Bill recognizes that being curious while standing outside the current role in our lives and being honest and understanding of our own imperfections can transform prejudice into appreciation.
Jack Sanchez’s joy of life is to help people realize their potential. Jack was a teacher for 38 years. He taught everything from history and philosophy to the German language. He was also the track and cross country coach and academic decathlon coach. One of his amazing achievements was to take highly intelligent students that were average C students and hadn’t been motivated. His mission was to turn them on. He did just that! Jacks little high school in Auburn, California became the state champs three consecutive times. Jack says that achieving goals in your life starts with a dream, then you go to a vision and finally you create a plan. Once these steps are completed perseverance kicks in with the execution of the plan. His life certainly demonstrates how well this method works. Jack is 75 years old today. He walks and sprints for an hour a day and is planning on competing in the long jump and triple jump later this year. He and his wife have successfully climbed the highest mountain in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro. All of this has been achieved because his belief that having a dream, vision and plan actually works. Always, always, always believe!
One of Jack Clark’s first jobs was working in the Idaho-Maryland Gold Mine in January 1941. This job became necessary when his parents both died within a two-week period of time. At first, he was a stokes man and later worked in the first aide section in the mine. Every day, he would travel to each level of this 3,200 foot deep mine and deliver first aid supplies where they were needed. In 1942 he enlisted into the U.S. Navy where he spent part of his time in the States and part of the time in the South Pacific. Jack spent two months in a large San Diego hospital and eventually was shipped off to Gualala Canal to setup another hospital. He became familiar with the Marine Corp when he was reassigned to the Marines and sent to Georgia Island. When he got there, injured men were lying on the ground everywhere. Jack went from one man to another applying first aid and morphine so the wounded could be transferred to the hospital. He saw everything. Jack knew at that time that he wanted a job in the states that helps people. Jack feels that the conversation and interactions with the wounded built trust with each individual that he met and this trust is a most important attribute that is needed in worker safety. Safety for others and yourself.
Chuck Jakobs had an Uncle, Uncle Bud who was bigger than life. When Chuck was 3-4 years old, Uncle Bud took Chuck to his first fire. This was the beginning of Chuck’s lifetime passion to serve in the fire service. At 16 years old, Chuck was sworn in on June 6, 1967 as a new member of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Chuck’s experiences in emergency response introduced him to many people. He told me that relationships that started in the fire service last a life-time. Chuck equates the fire service to the Marine Corp. You trust that every firefighter around you is watching your back and you do the same for them. As years of service stacked up, Chuck recognized that his motto on life focused on three things; help people, make a difference and do the right thing. He realized that achieving this was not accomplished by doing big things. It was solving many small problems and issues that add up to making a real difference. These traits will also serve each of us when the unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances occur in our futures.
Captain Charles Jakobs was a professional fire fighter in California for over 40 years. One day he was approached and requested to recruit and train new seasonal hires. While in the Navy, Chuck worked with the aviation Bosin mates. Their duties were described as, “The ability to work men”, and that was exactly what Chuck became known for in the fire department. The two most important things to remember are your humility and humanity. Everybody has basic needs that must be met and everyone is fallible in some way. Throwing your rank out to someone or reminding them that they are inmates is not necessary. Your job as a captain of a fire crew is safety of all men and completing the mission. Chuck feels that motivation comes from inside of you. The Fire Corp is one way to provide opportunity for people to get motivated. These traits will also serve each of us when the unexpected and uncontrollable circumstances occur in our futures.
Stan Zabka grew up in a large family of 12 kids. They really practiced the “we’re all in it together” philosophy. In Stan’s view, the first half dozen siblings helped bring up the second half dozen. He didn’t realize the strength of the bonds between each of his siblings until they became adults. Their time apart only enhanced the time when they got together in their adult lives. Family gatherings became events filled with joy. Stan feels that the commitment to hang together as a family was rooted in the demonstration and practice of diligence, responsibility and trust. Personal character was valued in this family. Be the example that your children will model.