Senior in Action – Dina Cramer

Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.

Senior in Action – Dina Cramer

by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

Were you born in California?

“I was born 74 years ago in France, and my parents brought me at age one to the U. S. when they emigrated.  I grew up in the East Bay area in Berkeley and Oakland, CA.  My mother and father spoke only French at home, even though they were fluent in English.  My sister and I rebelled against speaking en français but my parents persisted so that we are fluent today.  Now that my mother and father are both gone, I enjoy streaming French television for entertainment, to keep my French language skills active.”

Did your early school activities influence your future career or interests?

“I was very involved in my high school’s Yearbook Staff, and wrote a column for the local paper. I still love writing and photography.  Throughout my career, I’ve written and edited documents, created layouts, and used the principles I learned while putting together the yearbook. I have also done a certain amount of free-lance magazine writing throughout my career.  I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1968 with a BA in Comparative Literature. It didn’t seem very useful then, but proved to be when I started working for libraries later in my career.”

“I had two careers; one in government, and the other in public libraries.  In both, I made extensive use of writing skills.  I obtained a Master’s Degree in Urban and Regional Planning from George Washington University in Washington, DC.    I found a job in the federal government, but found I disliked the bureaucracy.  I immediately switched to a local city administrative position, in Budgeting, Human Resources and Public Relations. It was much more satisfying, seeing the results of my efforts in a local community.  While there I wrote and edited a City Newsletter that went to every household in the community every two weeks.

I met my husband Irl in the 1970’s and moved to Los Angeles when his job took him there. After our children Alex and Zachary were born, I needed a more flexible job.   After considering a variety of careers that would provide flexible hours, I decided to become a Reference Librarian.   That choice sent me back to grad school at UCLA where I graduated with a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science.  I worked for Torrance Public Library as a reference librarian, then decided to take a position at the smaller El Segundo Library where I was named Director of Adult Services.

Would you like to share your proudest career accomplishments?

“I am most proud of creating the Author Fair at El Segundo Library, which continues to this day; twenty years later and counting!  There were 25 authors the first year, selling and signing their books, speaking on panels, and interacting with their readers.  I organized goody bags, musical entertainment, and a children’s program.   It took plenty of coordination, but was a popular event in the South Bay.”

“Another program I initiated was the El Segundo Library Concert Series, which also continues to this day.  The monthly concerts take place in the library during the school year.”

What are your favorite activities at this time in your life?

“Prior to the pandemic, my husband and I loved traveling. After my retirement in 2007, we took off on vacations; domestic and international.  Our travels have been stimulating, educational, and great fun.  I like to say that I travel because it expands my world and it delights me. We don’t travel with organized groups, but sometimes find a local tour guide to hire. We like to set our own itinerary.  We’ve been to France a number of times to maintain family connections, to Russia to see other family, to Africa on safari and to visit towns and cities, and to other countries where we toured museums and historic sites.  Before we travel, we check “The Great Courses” catalog to see if there is a class about that country’s history on DVD.  We especially enjoyed “5000 years of Chinese History” which we viewed before traveling to mainland China and Hong Kong. While traveling I blog to a list of friends. After we return from trips, it’s rewarding to create photo journals documenting our travels. “

“My husband Irl and I like to spend time with Leo, our 14-month-old grandson.  He lives close enough that I am able to visit him to play games and interact with him weekly, teaching him some French words (grand-mère being the first.)  Leo’s first year was documented in a photo journal I created using Shutterfly. I still use those high school yearbook skills.”

“Cooking uncomplicated but healthy meals is another of my favorite pastimes.  My mother began teaching me to cook at a young age.  Exercise is an important part of my day.  My fitness regimen is a twice a week workout with a trainer, two days doing online aerobics, and one day with my walking group.  During the pandemic, I looked for walking options all over the South Bay.  Now that restrictions have eased, I mostly walk along the beach, or walk the greenbelt that stretches from Manhattan Beach to Hermosa Beach.”

“One of my most satisfying activities is volunteering for Torrance Memorial Hospital at the Information Desk.  It feels good to help people who may be upset or stressed about having a loved one in the hospital or coming for a procedure of their own.  I’ve been doing this for nine years and have received a pin for longevity of service.

Do you have any advice to share with NBY readers?

“Stay physically active; do any kind of movement you enjoy.  Prioritize maintaining your health.  If you keep your body active, your mind will remain sharp as well. And I recommend “The Great Courses” as a way to continue learning.“

To view “The Great Courses” offerings, visit www.thegreatcourses.com


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