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Staying in the Game

Carrie Addington

If you call Sylvia Colston-Still while she’s out (and she often is), listen carefully to the end of her answering machine message: “Today is the beginning of the rest of your life.”

The former physical education teacher-turned-school counselor lives by those words, determined to live each day to the fullest.

She has already raised a family, served 20 years in the Army Reserves, and earned a doctorate degree in counseling psychology, at a time when few women—and even fewer African-American women—could do so. All the while, she’s kept up with her lifelong passion for basketball.

A star player on her high school team in the 1950s, Colston-Still, now 72, still loves the game, which she plays three to four times a week. “I think I’ll be playing basketball until I reach 100,” she says.

Colston-Still has a full life off the court, too. She sits on several boards in her home state of New Jersey, including the Fort Dix Retiree Council and the Pensauken Library Board.

She adopted a family affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In fact, shortly before she spoke to This Active Life, Colston-Still had returned from a New Orleans trip to visit her adopted family, where she took the family’s children on a shopping trip. She recalls, “I enjoyed all those hugs.”

Above all, she loves spending time with her own family. She helps out taking care of her 15 grandchildren and roots for her nephew, Marcus Colston, who plays football for the New Orleans Saints.

But Colston-Still has already set a few more goals for herself. She thinks she’d “like to learn how to ride a motorcycle and get into some square dancing.”

“Retirement is a time in your life to do bigger and better things,” she says. “It’s a time for change.” 

The Power of Imagination

As a school teacher for more than 36 years and a Cub Scout leader for 23 years, George Cipolletti felt the people he could best relate to were seven-year-olds. “I have a little bit of kid in me,” says the New Jersey native.

The youngsters he taught clearly related to him, too. His students were at his bedside during his recovery from an automobile accident in the late 1950s. Part of his therapy was playing games when they came to visit. “Young kids can inject a spirit into you that you don’t know you have.”

That spirit found its way into a story Cipolletti wrote called Once Upon an Elephant.

In 1955, he first imagined the fairy tale about an unlikely hero, a princess, a scoundrel, and an elephant who saves the day and developed the story over the years as he told it to his own children. His vision came to full fruition when he published it as a children’s book last year.

Cipolletti remembers, “My grandchildren inspired me to do this. They said, ‘Gramps, go ahead.’”

To bring the story to the page, Cipolletti collaborated with his now-grown granddaughter, artist and animator Suzanne Cipolletti, who illustrated it.

What’s next for this 82-year-old who “gets bored easily”?

“I just want to enjoy life. I love life. Why get mad? It takes too much energy,” he chuckles.

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