06 May Senior in Action – Dona Bishop
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 – Dona Bishop
When Dona sat down to share her life story, I reviewed some memorable people featured in past Senior in Action columns, including a Korean War veteran who wrote a memoir. Dona chuckled, and said, “I already have an outline of my memoir, and even a title: Dona Slept Here! You see signs at various historic places, e.g. ‘George Washington slept here’ and I have many memories of accommodations (good and bad) around the globe where I spent the night.
ON RETIREMENT “A friend of mine recently retired, and my advice to her? Do what you want to do and stay busy! Some people suggested I find a part-time job to fill my days. Heck no! I’ve been blessed with good health, which means I can fill my time with more hiking, playing BUNCO with friends, bowling, traveling, volunteering, and art lessons, with time to spare for interesting talks at the public library on archaeology or history. Knowledge is power. No matter what your age, stretch those brain cells by adding new information.”
ON ART & THEATER “I love to organize outings with friends to concerts, theater performances or local art museums. It is rewarding to introduce people to the arts and watch them fall in love with a performance. It was very gratifying to introduce my grandkids to live theater. They had a ball as kids when we attended La Mirada Theatre productions!”
ON LEARNING & SHARING GENEROSITY “I was a war baby, born in 1944 in Bremerton, Washington. My mother saved the telegram announcing my birth sent to my grandparents in LA. Imagine that! We moved to Kansas from 1945-52 where my father was a sharecropper. Picture me; a farm girl who drove a tractor, milked cows, fed chickens, and helped take care of my younger sister and two brothers. Even though we had no electricity and no luxuries, my mother set an example by taking us to serve meals at soup kitchens. We volunteered at a Red Cross shelter after a devastating Kansas flood, caring for children separated from their parents. Throughout my career with LA County, I headed up charitable drives and community giving. Then a fellow County employee invited me to join Soroptimist International of Norwalk, and since 1994, I have been a dedicated Soroptimist member, empowering women and girls through access to education.”
ON LOVE & LOSS “I met a sailor in 1962 and fell in love. Daughter Jeana was born in 1963, then our son Glenn in 1967. We bought a house in Norwalk which lasted longer than our marriage. In 1975, we moved to La Mirada, and were divorced three months later. A girlfriend later tried to set me up with her friend Jack. Neither Jack nor I wanted to go on a blind date. At a Rams vs. Raiders football game, I finally met Jack. It was love at first sight! We moved to Long Beach in 1990. Together we bicycled up the coast of Oregon, went camping at many state parks and beaches, and traveled the world. My favorite trip with Jack was through Greece and Turkey, where we relived history at ancient ruins. Jack left this world too soon in 2006 when he lost his fight with cancer. Friends and family helped me survive the tidal wave of grief.”
ON CIVICS “My mother encouraged me to enter a contest for Miss Little Lake Park and I agreed. When I was in middle school, I crossed that park daily to Lake Center Middle School, and played flag football there. My legs were skinny then, so maybe that’s why I won! I never competed in another contest. I graduated from Santa Fe High School (Go Chieftains!), and finished my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at CSU Long Beach. After five years working for a bank, I realized my gender was not likely to be promoted beyond teller. Having volunteered at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, I decided to apply there. In 1973, I was hired at Rancho, and eventually promoted to Head of Admissions, then Head of Medical Records. Later, I worked at LA County Health Services in downtown Los Angeles and implemented intensive staff training in customer service. My last county position was Division Manager with the Registrar Recorder/County Clerk’s office, overseeing poll worker services and operations. My message to Not Born Yesterday readers is VOTE! It is a cherished privilege; make your voice count.”