Senior in Action -Julie Sorensen

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 -Julie Sorensen

as told to Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen

Q: What are your favorite post-retirement activities?

Julie: “I’ve been retired for a year and have already been identified as a ‘people wrangler’.  I missed my daily activities and colleagues as the 15- year manager of the San Gabriel Library. So, I jumped right out and got involved in my hometown of Monrovia and started to ‘wrangle.’”

“An upcoming City Council election caught my attention.   As part of my work assignment at the library, I regularly attended City Council meetings.  I found the City Council has a tremendous amount of power, and that Council members are involved in many vital policy decisions relating to affordable housing, homelessness, even which grocery stores come to your city. I also realized that very few residents turn out to vote. “

“With that in mind, I trained with the Monrovia Area Partnership (MAP) Leadership Academy and participated in various volunteer city gigs. I wrangled an invitation to facilitate a panel discussion bringing representatives of several housing authorities together, and at that event, got to pitch the importance of getting out to vote in the upcoming Council elections. I think the audience heard me. The election had outstanding voting numbers.”

“Since then, I have been actively volunteering in Monrovia: at the Boys and Girls Club working with reluctant readers; at the Monrovia Library with adult literacy; and in the Monrovia Unified School District. Twice a week I visited a 4th grade classroom to help students with reading and creative writing. I discovered that writing about a California Mission in a 4th grade classroom was as challenging as building that mission at home in the kitchen (with sugar cubes and glue) like we did when my kids were in school.”

“I’ve also become a board member of a national nonprofit, Family Promise, which partners with a consortium of churches to house families in church facilities.  Families benefit from a relationship with members of the church congregations as they work with assistance from various agencies to help get back on their feet and into permanent housing. It is rewarding to be involved with a nonprofit that offers some concrete solutions to homelessness.”

“Currently, I am Board President of the Alhambra Library Foundation which functions as an advisory group. I am also part of a very close-knit book club which formed when I was library manager at San Gabriel Library, and now meets independently. We enjoy catching up with friends each month and discussing books.”

Q: What would you like to share about your education and family?

Julie: “I was born in 1945, a California girl. I received my Master’s in Library Science at UCLA, and worked as a college librarian and as a Children’s Librarian in Orange County. For a number of years, I was an entrepreneur and small business owner, including performing as a puppeteer, before taking a position with LA County Library, where I worked for 24 years until retirement.”

“My husband David and I met in the late 1960s at a singles dance at the Edgewater Hotel’s ballroom in Long Beach. Those dances with live music were very popular at the time. We were married in 1970 and have been together for 52 years. He lived near Disneyland and watched fireworks every night. So, I married him!  At that time, I was a freshman librarian at Cal State Fullerton, and he was working as an engineer.

“We considered ourselves hippies and both left our jobs a few years later to become small business owners. Our parents were shocked!  College graduates leaving professional careers to run a small business. Yipes! And, yes, running our own business was harder and more labor intensive than we had imagined. We owned an art gallery & picture framing business in San Bernardino with many challenges and many expenses.”

Q: What hobbies do you pursue when not volunteering?

Julie: “I like to spend time tending our backyard garden. Twice a year, I plant new crops in raised planters: zucchini, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes in the summertime. I’m not a real foodie but ratatouille made with fresh veggies over rice tastes super delicious! My husband David used to be involved in the gardening, but these days he prefers to point from the sidelines. David enjoys watching sports on television, where my preference is reading a good book.”

“Our adult sons are married, and we relish visiting them and their families. Grandson Konrad is 11 years old and lives in San Francisco. Granddaughter Amy is 7 and lives nearby in Monrovia. One of our favorite family activities is hiking on the numerous foothill trails just minutes away.”

Q: Any words of wisdom you’d like to share with NBY readers?

Julie: “Think of the good things you miss from your workplace, whether it be coworkers who feel like family, potlucks, daily interaction with cohorts, etc. Think carefully about these things. Then, replicate them. Yes, “wrangle”. You can do it with all the positives in place and on your own terms! No bosses, no timetables, no reports.”

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