‘Retirement is Good’
By Edward Graham
For Elizabeth Cygan, retirement has been as fulfilling as her 28-year career as a middle school guidance counselor and special education teacher in Sudbury, Mass.
Following her 2003 retirement, Cygan became involved with the Framingham chapter of the Literacy Volunteers of America in Massachusetts. She used her free time to take courses and become an ESL trainer. For the next few years, Cygan held weekly classes in local libraries, teaching English to students of all ages. Cygan also wrote for ESL Magazine to help share her own knowledge and experiences with fellow ESL educators.
While Cygan continued to embrace teaching even in retirement, she began to spend even more time pursuing one of her other interests—writing. Soon, she was writing about Ben and Bel, her thoroughbred Siamese cats.
Legend has it that the breed descends from the royal cats of Old Siam. “They want to be treated as such,” says Cygan, adding, “They rule the household.”
After countless hours of documenting their adventures, Cygan created A Tale of Two Tails: The Adventures of Ben and Bel. She worked with an illustrator and photographer, and today, the book is available on Amazon and Kindle.
“I learned so much from this,” Cygan says. “This took about three years to complete, and it was a lot of fun and hard work.”
Aimed toward younger readers and cat lovers, the book weaves together Ben and Bel’s adventures with the history of Siam and the origins of the Siamese cat. Cygan even had a little fun with the titles of her 10 chapters.
“I use cat words: ‘cataclysm,’ ‘cat burglar,’ ‘caterwaul,’ ‘catatonic,’ ‘catcall,’” says Cygan. “I identify the word, define it and give these true tales.”
When she’s not writing, Cygan bakes. She and her husband, Pete, enjoy traveling the country by train, or visiting with their two sons and grandchildren.
“My days are pretty filled,” Cygan says. “Retirement is good.”
Age? ‘Nothing but a Number’
By Helen Yoshida
In 2001, JoAnn Sampson saw an advertisement for the 2002 South Florida Senior Games, and decided to participate in the 100 meter race.
To build stamina, the former teacher—who worked for 35 years in the Miami-Dade County public school system—did aerobic and Pilates, stretched, ran and walked five to eight miles every day.
“When February eighth rolled around, I went to Fort Anderson Senior High School in Fort Lauderdale and I ran with seven other women. My friend told me, ‘When that gun goes off, you take off and don’t you look back,’ so I did that and I won the gold medal in my first race, clocking in at 21 seconds.”
Winning that race qualified Sampson for the state championship where she crossed the finish line in 19 seconds, winning the silver medal and qualifying for nationals. “The rest is history,” says the medalist.
Today, the 74-year-old trains five days a week and competes in races that have taken her to locales across the country, including Hawaii, Washington, and Maine. She also speaks to Dade and Broward County students who can’t believe she’s a senior Olympian.
“I take my articles and I show them my medals,” says Sampson. “They ask ‘How do you do that?’ and I explain to them what I do and how I do it. I love talking to kids because I say age is nothing but a number. It’s what is in your heart that matters.”