Meet three sprightly Southern Colorado septuagenarians who won’t stop.
After a long teaching career, Rhoda Cordry still has a spring in her step
Rhoda Cordry, now 78, retired from a satisfying career as a public elementary school teacher in the mid-1980s with no particular plans to take on another big job. But after a friend asked her to attend a community meeting about restoring the town’s unique cold mineral springs she found herself intrigued by a new endeavor.
“Manitou is right in the mountains; we can’t grow physically as a town,” explains Rhoda. “And there’s no industry, so we have to do something to keep the economy up as a tourist attraction. The springs are the thing, but they’re hard on the pipes and fountains people put them through—they clog, corrode, eat through them. They need maintenance.”
In 1987, Rhoda and a handful of other concerned locals started the Mineral Springs Foundation to restore, protect, publicize, and document Manitou’s springs. So far, they’ve succeeded in working with private landowners and the city to restore eight of the area’s approximately two dozen springs, and are working toward more. Rhoda left the foundation in 1995 due to health problems, but stays involved.
“I spent all my working years teaching elementary school, so that was child- and parent-focused,” she says. “But this was a whole new world. I learned a whole new set of skills, met wonderful people, and benefited greatly from it. I loved teaching, but I loved this, too. People asked what I wanted to do in retirement, and I said ‘I don’t know!’ So I’m glad this happened.”
Eagle Scout badge, black tie, and choir robe: some of Arthur Benson’s many uniforms
“Being an Eagle Scout is probably worth $50,000 over a lifetime in terms of preference for schools and jobs,” says Arthur Benson, a 71-year-old retired plastics industry manager who now spends between 40 and 50 hours a month volunteering for five organizations in Colorado Springs. One of his favorite roles is as a leader and committee chairman of a local Boy Scout troop.
“When I was in my 30s, I mentioned being a Scout leader in a job interview and the first question was, ‘Were you an Eagle Scout?’ and I was able to say yes. And I’ve read many college admissions deans say that all things being equal, they’ll choose the Scout,” he says. “It’s because scouting drills integrity into boys—teaches them about trustworthiness and loyalty, and how to live those traits out. It’s the right age to teach them, too, because then at 16 or 17, two kinds of fumes draw them away from scouting: gas fumes and perfume!”
Arthur is also a retired Navy officer with 23 years of service. He’s now active with the Navy League, an international, 50,000-member civilian organization that educates the public and Congress about the value and needs of the country’s sea services—”a mission especially important in a landlocked state,” says Arthur.
As treasurer of the local board and Navy Ball committee, Arthur helps to raise about $20,000 a year to support the League at the annual black-tie-or-uniform Navy Birthday Ball they sponsor for hundreds of active military and the public in Colorado Springs.
In addition, Arthur sings in two choirs and volunteers as treasurer for the small foundation that owns the real estate assets of his church, as well as for a charter school building corporation. “Those commitments don’t take a lot of time now, but I have a feeling they’ll snowball!” he says.
Bob Baker takes on many roles as the roll winds down
“Serving at the soup kitchen is really neat; it’s humbling,” says Bob Baker, 70, of the monthly volunteering he does with his wife in Colorado Springs. “Serving at that level is really valuable.”
But Bob has served at many levels for a long time, including in his professional life as CEO of Goodwill Industries of Southern Colorado for 17 years. Prior to that, when he was president of a local bank, he also dedicated time to the United Way, first as a campaign solicitor and eventually as chairman of the board of their local chapter.
“The United Way was a very vibrant organization at that time,” Bob says. “They had a ‘give once’ philosophy—you’d give once, to them, and they’d distribute your donation to worthy organizations in the community. It was very effective.”
Since retirement, among a host of other volunteer pursuits, Bob has joined the board of the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, a Catholic organization that provides health care and other services to those in need.
“The connections I’ve made—as a nonprofit CEO, board member, and volunteer—they’ve been very important,” he says. “I’ve maintained a lot of them. But life is that roll of toilet paper, right? And now, it’s winding down, so I want to make good use of the time I have left. There’s great fulfillment in all types of community involvement. We’ve been fortunate, and giving back is important to us.”