At her 50th high school class reunion, one sixty-something graduate remarked, “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself!” Her portrait photo in the reunion book was taken on China’s Great Wall two years earlier.
So, how do you envision your senior years?
Many local retirees have opted for active “seniority” by setting up housekeeping at Robson Ranch off I-35W in southern Denton County.
The cozy community’s members– who like to work with their hands– organize art-related recreation, according to their own interests at the Ranch’s 11-year-old, multi-million dollar Creative Arts and Technology Center (CATC).
Immediately inside the front entrance is the library, complete with cases of paper reading, electronic entertainment, internet café, plus puzzle and board game tables. Down the hall is the soundproof woodshop where people in heavy aprons and safety goggles scurry around an array of tools big and small. Their workmanship fills a glass wall gallery between the shop and a spacious, light-filled multi-purpose studio for painters. Next to that is the technology instruction room, more display galleries, a large craft sewing room, plus a clay and ceramics studio. Have we missed anything?
CATC Facilities Chairman Linda Terry has “been around,” as the saying goes. She was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., then left Seattle to become a Texan 17-years-ago.
“Fun like college,” is how she describes life at Robson Ranch. “The opportunities for personal growth are diverse.” She enjoys knitting and crocheting in quiet moments, but “I’m an active person who likes to stay busy and productive.” She accomplishes the busy and productive angles by filling several committee positions on the Robson Ranch Homeowners Association Board of Directors. “But what I really enjoy is seeing those around me bloom.”
Joey Misiazek, a Massachusetts native son self-described as Chairman Linda’s CATC “heavy lifter (and the Ranch woodshop manager),” agrees. Growing up around the construction business, he later retired from a computer technology career in Pueblo, Co., and six-years-ago found his retirement thrill in the state-of-the-art carpentry facility at Robson Ranch. “As a kid I learned heavy-duty woodworking,” but, these days, fine art products tickle his imagination.
The August 2017 edition of the Robson Ranch newsletter listed more than 100 activities and interest groups, from fine art painting to yoga. Between alphabetical A through Y categories, there’s ballroom dancing, choral music, volunteer service organizations, genealogy, photography, Bible study, every sport imaginable, pottery, needlecrafts, and woodworking, to mention only a few from the things-to-do lineup. Many instructors live in Robson Ranch, but special guest teaching is a frequent treat.
This past summer, the University of North Texas (UNT) announced Robson Ranch is a site for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), the school’s facility for adults aged 50 and older. The 100+ OLLI classes are taught by UNT professors and area professionals. The Institute sponsors events, activities, travel and special interest groups. At last count, more than 120 Robson Ranch residents enrolled.
Misiazek pointed out that, on a regular basis, 170 people use the CATC woodshop, which partnered with Denton Kiwanis to produce 28 “Little Libraries” to install in underprivileged neighborhoods in the city. Eighty-five people participate in photography classes and 52 volunteer at the Ranch library. Robson Communities, Inc. does not create or manage the recreational groups.
“The people who live here,” he says, “take that responsibility. We enjoy and use the Ranch’s terrific facilities. Retirement is slower than the child-rearing and career years, but still an active time of life.”
Many Robson Ranch homeowner craftsmen and artists also build private studios called casitas on their personal piece of the “Robson Eden.” The world around the Ranch might refer to these spaces as a man’s cave or a woman’s craft room. It’s a place to hole-up with imagination and all that accumulated stuff you kept buying to use “someday when I have free time.”
Terry agrees, “Retirement is definitely a time to experience balance and make the most of life’s gifts.” Instead of gulping a “cuppa,” then running off; take time to smell the coffee!
When he was 39, Misiazek received an extraordinary wake-up call regarding life’s gifts. Tangled in the life rope of an upended whitewater raft, he was dragged underwater for more than three terrifying miles. “My dead cousin lifted me out of the water with the comment it wasn’t my time to go yet.”
To that end Misiazek sees life’s later years as a time to let friendships bloom, help neighbors and experience the community and family through giving back. He and his wife, Kitty, are the parents of two sons and nine grandchildren. His mantra is the New Testament injunction to do unto others.
“Everyone desires dignity and deserves respect,” he said.
“I’ve moved many times over the years,” Terry said, “and that influenced my personal perspective in a good way.”
She and her husband, Dennis, have four children and four grandchildren. “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” is her advice to the kids and grandkids and anyone else who might be interested in what she thinks about life.
“The important thing is to make the effort to get along with other people during your time here,” she said.
Asked if they had another chance at life, what would these two retirees do differently? Both laughed then contemplated the question.
Terry would tell her girls to work harder at math and science.
Misiazek said he’d be more conscientious about family time.
Both couples came to Texas to be near their families. Terry has only good things to say about becoming Texan.
“It’s a great retirement spot,” Misiaszek said.