SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
Arthur L. Johnson

Arthur L. Johnson - Personal Retirement Story


"I’ve had a good life and I need to give back some of the good I have had."

 I retired in 1999 after 31 years of teaching American and Canadian history at SUNY Potsdam. I retired as a full professor at 66 years old.  I loved my job but was ready to slow down. I continued for ten years to teach a course a year as an adjunct.

I also had the good fortune to occasionally be a history lecturer on the vessels of the American-Canadian-Caribbean Line (now Blount Smallships), doing inland cruises on the Hudson River, Erie Canal, St Lawrence River, the Great Lakes, and the Intracoastal Waterway in Florida. That lasted ten years.

I continue to teach mini-courses for SOAR, a member-directed lifelong learning group for retirees in the North Country sponsored locally by SUNY Potsdam through its Center for Lifelong Education and Recreation (CLEAR) on the Potsdam campus. SOAR is one of almost 400 such lifelong learning groups affiliated with the Elderhostel Institute Network ( To learn more about SOAR, visit their website at   

Photo of SUNY Potsdam retiree Arthur and his wife AnneSince 2000 I have been volunteering at two nursing homes with my wife, Anne. In 2003 I took Hospice training and have been a Hospice volunteer ever since, which involves weekly visits with patients in their homes or in nearby nursing homes. In my youth I had wanted to be an Episcopal priest. I lost that track in college. Just as well. I thought I would like the liturgical function but didn’t think I could handle visiting the elderly, the sick and the dying. Now, after an academic career, I’m visiting the elderly, the sick, and the dying.  As it turns out, I have a vocation for it. God does have a sense of humor! At eighty years of age, it’s too late for me to join the priesthood, but I remain active in my parish church as acolyte and lector.

At the nursing homes we work with activities such as reading to patients, Anne playing piano for them, taking them out for walks, or just visiting people who see few visitors. I’ve had a good life and I need to give back some of the good I have had.

I have been a member of the Adirondack Mountain Club and the ADK 46ers, having climbed all of the 46 highest peaks in the range.

I’m also a long-term member of the Grasse River Players community theater in Canton, NY.  Last year I had roles in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile, and John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine.” I have written, directed, and acted in sixteen dinner theater murder mystery plays.

So it has been a busy retirement. My health is good, due to a combination of exercise (two-mile walk every morning) and to my dear wife of 54 years, who sees to my diet (including wine and ale). I will not, damn it, "go gentle into that good night."

My words of advice: Don't retire totally. Perhaps work part-time or get involved in volunteering. The big thing is to stay engaged in life.

Retirees Service Corps