Nothing else can replace the joys of a life well lived: the years of working, volunteering, and relaxing with friends and family. But it isn’t always easy to strike that balance, or to master fate and ill health, which can conspire against us. This is what makes it especially noteworthy when someone well into their senior years fulfills what we consider ‘living a full life.’ We spoke with seven seniors who are living life to the hilt, and asked what keeps them young at heart.
Now in her 80s, Sheila Moseley is still enjoying monthly luncheons with classmates from her Mary Institute class of 1939. She works as her class agent, in fact. But that’s far from the only job she’s held. After her mother won a writing contest when Moseley was in college, she went on a radio show to broadcast the winning entry, beginning a long career in radio and television. “I did 11 different television shows a week at one point,” recalls Moseley. “I was the host on What’s the Price?, which later became The Price is Right.”
In the ‘50s, Moseley and her husband built a radio station in St. Charles. Later, when her husband got involved in selling projection equipment to movie theaters, they bought a movie theater, charging only $1 admission and bringing in thousands of customers per week. Today, her son Harmon runs several movie theaters around town.
After her husband died, Moseley started volunteering. “I was on the St. Louis area Food Bank board for 10 years and a docent at the Rep for 10 years,” she notes. To keep fit and busy now, Moseley lifts weights on Tuesdays and Thursdays and does exercises in the pool on Wednesdays and Fridays. “I moved to Meramec Bluffs with some longtime friends of mine and we’ve really enjoyed it,” she says. Two and a half years ago, Moseley remarried to Ray Perry, a graduate of Country Day School and Harvard.
“It’s so important to like what you do,” the octagenarian says, “and not to feel like you just have to do something when you don’t have to. Running the theaters was among the most fun things to do, that doesn’t mean everything always went smoothly, but I always enjoyed it.”
As an artist, Art Grunmann has never marched to the beat of another’s drum. Now that he’s past 70, that’s even truer of the abstract painter. “I’m trying not to feel like I have to keep up with some kind of race. I’m just letting it come,” he says.
Grunmann began his career as an architect before changing his focus to realism-based landscapes, and then to the human figure. During the Gulf War, his work took a turn toward being more expressive and dealing with abstract color and movement in multiple media. “When people look at my work, their feelings get acted on, and they allow themselves to imagine,” Grunmann says. “I’m sort of inspiring visual feelings.”
Grunmann taught art at Meramec Community College for 34 years. “I was teaching people how to create, not necessarily how to draw a picture that represents something,” he says of his pedagogy. “The teacher is just the starting point, not the ending point.”
These days, besides keeping up with his studio work, Grunmann volunteers with The Ethical Society, helping organize its continuing speaker series in order to keep his intellect active. He takes walks and goes to the gym once in a while, he says. Recently he put on a benefit for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He also reads, a lot. “It doesn’t have to be connected to my field. It’s always very exciting for me to read a new book.”
Having an ongoing purpose is the secret to keeping young at heart, says Grunmann. “Keep discovering in your life, and in your own human relationships. I’m looking forward to continued discovery and keeping my own creativity going.”
In 1957, baseball coach Martin Mathews took a group of young boys under his wing. “These young men didn’t have anything in their lives, and they wanted somebody for their support system,” he recalls. “I used sports as a way to show them how to be successful and how to progress in America.” With his friend, Hubert ‘Dickey’ Valentine, he organized a club in 1960, which would eventually become the much-lauded Mathews-Dickey Boys’ and Girls’ Club, serving 40,000 children annually.
“We’ve been fortunate to have young and old, black and white people working with us,” says Mathews, who at age 83 still serves as president and CEO. “We subscribe to the constitution, we the people, we all want to make a good country.” That positive attitude explains his life. Seeing how he helps shape young people’s lives for the better has kept him going, he says. And his optimism has had a great effect on the young adults he works with. “We have club alums in the FBI and police, as educators, in business, every aspect of the American dream,” he beams.
Mathews himself worked for 25 years in corporate America at an auto parts company called Burkhart-Randal, where he helped create materials for dashboards. Now he goes out onto the playing fields every day with the children at Mathews-Dickey.
“Always pursue happiness,” Mathews suggests. “Don’t pursue things that will carry you down the hill. Keep your mind busy. We give people, young and old, the opportunity to do something with their lives, and they’re all happy.” Two things in particular have shaped Mathews’ life, he says, and helped him lead a good one: the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. “I looked at the great historical figures, like Thomas Jefferson, the things he wrote that are still working today. Look at the people who came before you,” he advises.
As the owner of Coronet Travel, a luxury travel agency, Joan Kiburz could have stayed quite busy by just continuing to work. But two years ago, she chose to take two days a week off work to ‘give back’ to the community. “I wanted to be involved somewhere that really needed help, someplace that could benefit from my great connections in the St. Louis business community,” she says. Fr. Gerry Kleba, a pastor at St. Cronan’s Parish in the city, told her about Central Catholic St. Nicholas School, a Nativity Miguel school, and a match was made.
Kiburz has fashioned a program at the school called ‘Making It,’ which focuses on healthy lifestyles. “We’re publishing a cookbook. We dissected a pig’s heart, and learned what drugs, alcohol and junk food do to your heart. And we’re planting a garden on the school grounds,” she lists. Kiburz coordinated with Saint Louis University to create a five-day culinary camp at SLU’s Doisy College of Health Sciences and has solicited top St. Louis chefs to contribute healthy recipes for the cookbook called Making It…Fast Slow Food.
“I also volunteer every Saturday at SLU’s booth at the Clayton Farmer’s Market,” Kiburz adds. “All the proceeds from sales of food go to SLU culinary scholarships.” Kiburz also provides the lunches for Habitat for Humanity workers on her parish’s work days.
To keep in shape for all her activities, she walks two miles a day and swims at Shaw Park Pool. “I am blessed with great genes, too,” she says. “My dad died at 96 and was still skiing in Austria and swimming laps at Shaw Park pool when he was 90. He was also very active with the Boy Scouts; he was the only adult leader for years for Scouts on Western tours,” Kiburz recalls. “He did a lot of ‘giving back,’ too. Always remember that ‘it’s in giving that you receive.’”
Contiued in the next story…