Arthur L. Johnson - Personal Retirement Story
I retired from SUNY Potsdam in November 1999 after 31 years. I had no retirement plan and I was somewhat fearful of retirement. Not being at all athletic, golf, handball, tennis, etc, were not options for me. What worked for me was tapering off with part-time teaching so that there was no shock of change, no "yesterday I was a professor today I'm someone else." I continued to teach one course (Canadian History) until 2009 and will be back in the classroom in January 2012 teaching a section of NY State history. I also teach courses in our SOAR peer learning program for retirees. I sailed as lecturer on the small ships of the American Canadian Caribbean Line (Now Blount Smallships Adventures). But these things didn't fill my time and I wanted to be useful.
Having spent more than thirty years in a public service profession (professor of history), I had to do something in service and as payback for the great career I have had with SUNY and the good life we have had.
One Sunday a woman spoke at our church about the need for nursing home volunteers. I hated to go near those places, but it seemed to be a call, so I started volunteering at the Potsdam nursing home, visiting, helping with activities and trips. When they closed that home in 2003 I took Hospice training, another thing I thought I could never do. My wife Anne and I now visit nursing homes in Canton and Massena. It's our "job" three afternoons a week. We put in ten or more hours weekly. It has been gratifying work.
Hospice and nursing home volunteering gets me out of the house and in contact with people, most of close to my age or older. Focusing on them keeps me from too much introspection and depression. It's hard to feel self-pity when you're interracting with these people and trying to brighten their lives. Nursing home and Hospice work have their own paybacks. When you walk into a room and someone brightens up, that's payback.
I have also been active with the Grasse River Community Players, and the Potsdam College Drama Area. I've written 16 dinner murder plays, 15 of which have been performed, some more than once. I have been acolyte, lay reader and eucharistic minister at Trinity Episcopal Church in Potsdam. Trying to keep fit, I walk 35-45 minutes every morning and do some yoga and weight work. I will not, damn it, "go gentle into that good night."