February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In the past, many people began to contemplate retirement as they approached age 60. However, today’s Boomer generation is taking much the same approach to retirement as they did toward life and career choices in their 20s: They sought out jobs that would make them happy, fruitful, and independent.

And since today’s Baby Boomers are now in their 60s, as well as being 78 million strong, they have over a quarter of their lives yet to live. They are living life with the very same passion that they had in their 20s. Carbon copies of former retiring generations they are not. Instead, they are reinventing their lives and changing what we used to call retirement. Many are branching out into second careers with zest and highly anticipated enthusiasm. Personal choice, freedom, and individuality mark the Boomer generation in 2013.

One such person is Pastor Larry Peterson, 65, who was the executive pastor at Bellevue Christian Center from 2004 to 2011. He then stepped down to pastor the 250-300 seniors in his church community. He also presides over the faculty and business aspects of the church and center. Formerly, he had successful military and business careers that allowed him to travel to many places.

feature_LarryP

Larry Peterson, former pastor

“Despite my life experiences, I felt that there was a void that I just couldn’t explain nor fulfill,” says Peterson. After settling in Bellevue, his soul and faith in humankind deepened as a result of everything that he had previously learned in his earlier careers. It was that enlightenment that became the vessel that would lead him onto his next journey.

Now in his third career path, he has truly found his calling in life.

Photography is also a passion of Peterson’s. That’s just one more path that he travels. Peterson keeps active by playing softball on a team for seniors called “Midwest Express.” His team recently placed fifth in the nation.

Another boomer who decided to follow her dreams and to transform her life is Dr. Kathy DeFord, 60, who now has her own dental practice in Papillion, DeFord Family Dental.

Her first career started out as a stay-at-home mom to four children. “When our children were all in school, I got a part-time job working in a dental office doing light office work. Occasionally, the dentist would have me help him with a patient when his dental assistant was busy. I loved those times. I asked him if he would train me in dental assisting and he agreed.

Kathy DeFord, D.D.S.

Kathy DeFord, D.D.S.

“One evening when my husband, David, and I were sitting at the dinner table chatting about the days’ events, I mentioned casually that if I could have any job, I would work as a dentist.

“At that moment, I had a silent but strong impression that this was something that I should pursue. I had not been in school for over 20 years. I enrolled in Houston Community College to brush up and eventually was accepted into the Honors’ College at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. I graduated from Creighton School of Dentistry in 2001; the same year two of our sons graduated from college and our youngest son graduated from high school. I spent several years with a group dental practice, Dundee Family Dental, before opening DeFord Family Dental in Papillion. I really enjoy my work,” DeFord says with a smile. “This is my heartfelt destiny.”

Having her own dental practice has been extremely rewarding, DeFord shares, “I have always loved working with my hands and helping people.”

DeFord spends her spare time keeping active visiting her four children that are spread out all over the country. Every three years she plans a family reunion at a different destination. A quiet retirement at home for her…no way!

Many potential retirees are pursuing new businesses ventures late in life as well. Mark Leichtle, 61, has gone from firm administrator in a large Omaha law firm to becoming the proprietor of the Old World Oil and Vinegar store in Rockbrock Village shopping center.

Leichtle has dozens upon dozens of mouth-watering flavored vinegars and oils to delight your palette and expand your cooking and eating pleasure. He also has many varieties of dried exotic mushrooms and special sea salts from all over the world.

“In my younger years, I was a maitre d’ and chef at a restaurant that did much of its cooking tableside. It was there that I learned about various cooking oils and special vinegars that would enhance and enliven foods to the delight of the customers.” – Mark Leichtle, owner of Old World Oil & Vinegar

When asked how he decided to go into this type of business after a long and fruitful career, Leichtle says that several things in his life had led him to what he’s now doing (and loving it!).

“In my younger years, I was a maitre d’ and chef at a restaurant that did much of its cooking tableside. It was there that I learned about various cooking oils and special vinegars that would enhance and enliven foods to the delight of the customers,” says Leichtle. “I enjoyed it so much and never forgot the wonderful experience of making food so delicious.”

Leichtle and his wife have a daughter in Minneapolis who showed them many stores that carried fine olive oils and aromatic vinegars. This awakened his love for cooking and using those special vinegars and fine oils that he once used in his earlier years. It was then that he began a quest for finding more specialty food stores all over the country and learning more about the newest and most delectable oils, vinegars, mushrooms, and sea salts available. Thus, came the inspiration for his store.

As you have read above, Omaha’s boomers are truly forever young and fervent about recreating and reinventing their retirement years. They have new career paths, vitality, enjoyment, and most of all, time to seek out passions and fall in love again with life.

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