01 Aug Senior in Action – James William “Jim” Elder
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 – James William “Jim” Elder
As told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
“I’m 84-years-old, a native Californian, born in Arcadia. My dad and grandfather were a huge influence in my life. My father was always inventing things. He built a child-sized gasoline-powered car for me to drive around the backyard when I was six years old! Ever since then I’ve liked cars, especially antique cars. Dad was an avid fisherman. I loved fishing with my dad, both freshwater fishing and deep-sea fishing. Just like my dad and grandfather, I find myself tinkering with things, taking them apart to figure out how they work.”
“I followed in Dad’s footsteps. He was Fire Chief in Arcadia, and when he left, I hired on with the City of Arcadia Fire Department and stayed until I retired. After graduation from Monrovia High School, I studied at local community colleges, and graduated from Mount SAC (San Antonio College) with my Fire Science Associates Degree. I worked for the Arcadia Fire Department for 30 years and served as Battalion Chief for 13 years until my retirement in 1987. I’m proud to have been instrumental in starting the city’s paramedic program. We used special radio gear to communicate the patients’ vital signs to ER doctors at the hospital. I used to visit school classes to share the history of fire services. Kids loved my uniform! I would tell them the fire engine was theirs if they could fit the truck into their room to keep it clean and shiny.”
“When I was working as a firefighter, I needed a second job to support my wife and children, so I earned my journeyman electrician’s license and did electrical work on the side. I had three sons and one daughter. They’ve given me 7 great-grandchildren. One of my sons is also a retired fireman.”
“I’m a firm believer that you need to have something to do when you retire. After retirement, I did handyman work. My business card read, HANDYMAN -Have tools, will travel. I’ve built furniture and done electrical work. I have more tools than are probably necessary. From 1987-1988, I took woodworking classes at Palomar College. They have the best woodworking program, and great instructors who emphasized safety above all. They wanted us to remember how easily we could lose a finger to a saw if we were not careful.”
“For longevity, it’s important to have a buddy, or be in a loving relationship. For me, that person is my wife, Patti. Both of us belong to a walking club. We walk two or three miles per day, 3 days a week. We also attend an exercise class at the Senior Center in Laguna Niguel. Patti and I swim every evening during the summer.”
“We love the water. I’ve been on sixteen cruises. We’ve cruised to Hawaii four times. Alaska was my favorite destination. We like warm water cruises where we can swim in the ocean. We play cards and stay very active aboard the cruise ship, attending all the shows.“
“Games and contests keep us feeling young-at-heart. We play a card game called “Hand and Foot” and Patti plays Bridge. For a cruise costume contest, Patti dressed as a brick wall (which I built in sections to carry in my suitcase), and I was the brick-layer. One Halloween, we won a $100 gift card when Patti dressed as a fish and I was a fisherman with my wife “hooked” on my line. We even won free Chick-fil-A sandwiches with Patti in a cow costume and me dressed as a farmer.”
Jim, you’re a good role model for achieving longevity. Exercise. Share good times with a friend or loved one. Be curious. Take classes to learn new skills. Enjoy life. Have fun!