What happens when you ‘flunk’ retirement?

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Published: June 9,2003

Some people can’t wait for retirement and greatly enjoy getting away from the daily pressures of the business world. Others, you might say, “flunk” retirement. They find they miss being in the thick of things and re-enter the workforce.

“I needed to be out and doing something,” said Gary Holland, who retired as managing editor after 32 years at the Mississippi Press, and then went to work as a senior editor for Ingalls Shipbuilding for a few years. He retired again, went fishing and visiting for six months. Boredom struck, and he re-entered the workforce becoming Jackson County associate editor for The Sun Herald.

Accustomed to all those years to being out of the house by 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. and working 10- to 12-hour days, being around the house for 24 hours a day left too much time on his hands.

“It just makes all the difference in the world when you get up in the morning and know there is something you need to do and something you enjoy doing,” Holland said. “For 40 years I was used to getting up early and going to work. When I retired, quite frankly I wasn’t adjusting as well as I wanted. I found retirement was nice, but not exactly what I thought it would be. I had spent my entire life doing exactly what I’m doing this morning, calling various people, asking if there is anything new, looking for new ideas for features and people stories. I do know people like to read about unusual people, people who have made real accomplishments. I try to dig them out as best I can.”

Holland is no longer “chasing ambulances” and covering other hard news stories. Instead he works as a columnist and doing people features.

“The thing I have enjoyed the most is getting back in touch with people,” Holland said. “You get an opportunity to renew acquaintances of long ago and make new ones. I have found it is more fun than chasing flounder and white trout. I am into what is going on in our community.”

Another prominent Jackson County resident, Jerry St. Pe, continues to work after retirement from Northrop Grumman. St. Pe spent 40 years in the shipbuilding industry, including 16 years as president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, which is now owned by Northrop Grumman.

“When I left in October, I sort of defined myself as in transition rather than in retirement,” St. Pe said. “It better describes my situation. I spend about 50% of my time on a variety of business interests, and another 50% on volunteer work principally in the area of economic development and charitable efforts. If retirement means more fishing and golfing, I’m a failure at retirement. If it means still putting in eight to nine hours per day, I guess I’m successful at it.”

St. Pe does consulting work, is a co-owner and a partner in the Delta Health Group, which owns and operates about 30 regional nursing homes, and a partner and chairman of the board of Signal International, which is the former Friede Goldman shipyard.

One difference today is that his schedule is less crowded. He is more in control of how he uses his time.

“That in itself is more enjoyable,” St. Pe said. “I have just a handful of assignments in a day as opposed to 20 assignments crowded into a day. It is still a busy day, but not as hectic.”

St. Pe said one of his favorite quotes is, “When you wake up in the morning and have people depending on you to do something, you need to be thankful.”

“After 40 years in the yard, I have this requirement to be engaged,” St. Pe said. “I can’t envision myself not being engaged in a number of things concurrently. But I’m not a workaholic. That description wouldn’t apply to me at all. I just like to be busy and enjoy the challenge of being involved in business undertakings. I also like having time to give back by serving as chairman of Jackson County Development Foundation, and working with United Way, the American Heart Association and the Boys and Girls Club.”

Dick Acker of Jackson, who was recently inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame, retired from Packard Electric (now Delphi) and began another career heading up the Jackson Enterprise Center, a business incubator. He retired early at 59 from Packard Electric because he didn’t want to transfer out of state. But he found retirement wasn’t for him.

“I’m not a fisherman,” Acker said. “I love to fish, but I’m not good at it and don’t go very much. I’m not a golfer, and I’m not really a hunter. I like to do something productive. I get up early, and when I get up I want to have something to do productive. Going fishing every day or playing golf every day just isn’t for me. To me it is an empty morning if you get up and no one cares if you got up. No one needs you. I want to do something worthwhile, something productive. I never cared for just sitting around and doing nothing. I guess that is why I went back to work.”

Acker worked for the Jackson Enterprise Center for 12 years and retired there four years ago. He still stays busy working as a business counselor for SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives), and helped revitalize the Jackson chapter of that organization. He is also a commissioner for Madison Square Redevelopment Authority, an ambassador for the Madison City Chamber of Commerce and involved as a volunteer at his church.

“There is always something coming up that people ask me to get involved with,” Acker said.

Herb Mizes, a counselor with the SCORE chapter in Gulfport, said most volunteers with the organization are motivated both by a desire to give back to the community and a need to continue to use the skills honed by a lifetime in business.

Mizes has a Ph.D. in industrial engineering and management and is a professional engineer. So he tends to get involved in startup businesses that requirement engineering know how.

“I don’t want to stay home and be a couch potato,” Mizes said. “I have had a decent life, and it is time to give something back. I get a sense of accomplishment when I help other people by being a mentor.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Becky Gillette at bgillette@bellsouth.net.


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