Retired and Over Fifty-Five, They Find a New Stage to Thrive

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Fannie Smiths, left at Casa Fuster, a house of mosaics

By Margo McKenzie

Julie Bowers (l.), Fannie Smiths (r) addressing travel group in Celestyal Cruise Ship

Fannie Smiths had worked with the Department of Education for thirty years as a business teacher. She later rose to guidance department chair and managed the school admissions process, psychosocial issues, preparation for graduation and college. As an extracurricular activity, Smiths directed FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) organizing school and statewide business and organization leadership activities for youth.

 

Though a dedicated educator and family member, she longed to see the world. A voice told her, “Just raise your kids and then you will be able to travel around the world.”

 

Julie Bowers had devoted twenty-nine years to teaching high school English in a variety of high schools, concluding at Thomas Edison High School. She had mastered the art of leading classroom discussions about “Hamlet”, “The Scarlet Letter”, “The Red Badge of Courage”, “Their Eyes Were Watching God” and other literary masterpieces. She prepared students for the English regents and SAT exams, graded essays and research papers.

Every summer after vacation teachers would return to school discussing the various places in the world they had visited. While they swapped stories about Spain, France, Florida or Egypt, Julie had nothing to contribute to the conversation.

 

This consistent inability to share a travel story created a deep hunger within Julie to see the world.  With a husband and two children, five classes to teach and not enough years to retire, Julie’s travel hopes could not come to fruition fast enough.

 

However, somewhere along the line, Julie became convinced, “God would allow me to live long enough to travel.”

 

Wilbur Bowers would troubleshoot for solutions to electronic problems in homes and offices. He installed, maintained, repaired telephones lines, voice mail systems, fax lines, security, Internet and wireless systems in hundreds of buildings across the metropolitan area for clients from all walks of life, encountering the very poor or the very wealthy such as residents of the Dakota Apartments where John Lennon lived.

 

On different days, they each wakened to their last alarm clock; Fannie and Julie taught their final lesson, graded their last test and Wilbur connected his last phone, but for all three, their inspiration to improve the lives of others remained intact.

 

Very often, retirees enjoy pursuing a life of leisure. Others volunteer in churches or community organizations. But Fannie, Julie and Wilbur wanted to do more.

 

After raising her children, Fannie founded a business, another venue for her organizational, inspirational and educational inclinations —Funshine Travel–an agency which organizes excursions to ports around the world.

 

 

Their children entered adulthood and eventually both Julie and Wilbur retired. Fannie invited Julie to join her travel business, and Wilbur joined also. Some might call it fate, but Julie calls that day divine.

 

Now fifteen years in operation, Funshine Travel has visited over twenty countries: France, Spain, Italy, Bahamas, Haiti, Greece, Rome, their latest an April trip to Cuba.

 

Organizing trips for groups is a work of careful juggling, communication and sensitivity, skills all three developed over the years in their first careers.

 

Their next trip is an October cruise aboard the luxurious Ms. Koningsdam, a new five-star ship, visiting St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Barbados, Martinique, St. Kitts, Nevis, St. Thomas and Half Moon Cay. Contact: Fann9@aol.com or Jeb@nyc.rr.com if interested.

 

They shudder to think that just two years ago they led a group to the Champs D’Elysee, the site of a recent terror attack.  Though these attacks may cause pause, Fannie, Julie and Wilbur will continue to make their encore performances in life by organizing trips for enthusiastic travelers.

 

According to Pew Research Report: Working after “Retirement: The Gap Between Expectations and Reality,” 77% of workers expect to engage in some form of work after retirement, but in reality, only 12% find themselves working.  Although Funshine Travel is fun, it still qualifies as a business which may serve as a model for others seeking entrepreneurship opportunities.

 

“With changes underway in the basic financial framework of retirement (fewer people now than in the past work for employers who provide defined benefit pension plans),” the same Pew Research Report suggests that in the future even more retirees may pursue entrepreneurship ventures to meet their financial obligations.

 

 

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After thirty-three years of dedicated service as an educator and administrator, I continue to teach and inspire through the gift of writing.