Senior in Action – Irene Hernandez

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.

Re: photo taken in front of the waterfall:

The waterfall picture was taken at Mendenhall Lake in Alaska when we took our boat up


Senior in Action – Irene Hernandez

as told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

Have you always lived in California?


Were you a career woman?

Irene: “I went to Dominguez High School in Compton, and attended college to study for an RDA, Registered Dental Assistant.  I enjoyed working in the dentistry field from 1972 until I retired in 2017.  During my career, I not only worked in dental offices, but also assisted the Board of Dentistry’s Examiners in the RDA licensing exams held at USC.  Being a mother to three children plus working in a dental office required lots of juggling. “

“Now that I am retired, I make a point of remaining physically active.  I love walking, and spend hours gardening.  All that trimming, clipping and raking in our big backyard and vegetable garden gives my body a workout!  We grow zucchini, tomatoes and herbs in the vegetable garden.  I love the smell of basil.  From our fruit trees, we harvest plums, apricots, kumquats, loquats and lemons.  We make an effort to prepare healthy meals, although holiday family dinners always include YUMMY potatoes, made with sliced potatoes, grated cheese and sliced Ortega chiles.  My children and grandchildren love my mole sauce on chicken tacos.  Growing some of our own fruit and vegetables helps us stay focused on a nutritious diet instead of giving in to cravings.”

Do you have other hobbies?

Irene: “I enjoy decorating and creating beautiful, unique crafts. In autumn, it’s fun to decorate with fall leaves and pumpkins.  I keep an artificial tree in my home all year ‘round with changing seasonal decorations.  Our menagerie of pets also keeps us busy.  I usually take our dog, Gigi on my walks. Our other pets are Tiffany the cat, a bearded dragon, two ducks, two lovebirds and a parakeet.  We love our animals!”

Is religion an important part of your life?

Irene: “Faith is the number one motivator in my life.  I began worshipping at The Lord’s Church in Bellflower in 1962 at age 9.  After my children were born, they accompanied me and other church members on mission trips to Mexico and Arizona.  We brought clothes, toys and food to Mexican church orphanages before winter holidays.  Now our mission trips are to Arizona due to safety concerns. At church, I decorate a 9-foot Christmas tree each year.  And every Sunday, I look forward to seeing my best friend Elizabeth at the worship service.  We’ve been friends since first grade.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Will you share why that matters to you?

Irene: “My father died at age 58 from cancer.  Six years ago, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time.  I don’t even know how I made it through chemotherapy while caring for my mother.  It required balance: spiritual, physical, and financial.  Keeping a positive attitude helped too, and we focused on good nutrition and vitamin supplements.  We prayed often, and our family and friends supported us with prayers and loving care.  Sadly, my mother passed away in 2017.”

Would you like to share any words of wisdom with NBY readers?

Irene: “It’s important to maintain a good attitude and stay positive in the midst of chaos.  Enjoy the little things in life, like walking on the beach and listening to the waves.  Remember that we’re not meant to go through life alone.  We’re meant to have best friends, and family to provide support when needed.”

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