After graduating from UW, Gene and I were married in 1964 and headed for California where Gene attended law school and I earned a Masters degree in speech and language pathology at Stanford. I worked for a year setting up a speech therapy program for the Menlo Park school district and acting as an itinerant speech therapist for the district’s five schools, which had never had a speech program before.
After law school, Gene accepted a job with a large law firm in Chicago and I went to work at the University of Illinois – Chicago where I worked in the speech clinic and did occasional teaching for the Speech Department. When David was born in 1970, I took an 18 month leave of absence, and after Matt was born in 1974, I had to fish or cut bait because the political situation had changed radically and extended leaves (legally I got 6 weeks) were not in the cards. So I cut bait. I hated doing it because I loved my job and was not particularly good at being at home.
We had moved to Oak Park in December 1969, the first suburb west of Chicago, and one which shares a boarder with the city. Oak Park had passed an open housing ordinance in 1968 (prior to enactment of the federal law) and was then struggling to achieve racial diversity throughout the community and avoid resegregating into white and black sections of town. This included a fight to overcome historical trends and to maintain the community’s attractiveness to businesses and residents as a racially diverse community that offers high quality schools and municipal services. These were the bad old days of red lining, block busting, racial steering and white flight. Oak Park is full of activist citizens (sometimes a royal pain in the arse), and there was much to be done. I got active in these and other efforts, including local government, and the schools. Gene did, too, serving as the appointed attorney for the Park District for about 15 years, chairing the citizen committee that brought liquor back to heretofore dry Oak Park, and heading up the 4th of July fire works – a volunteer effort – for 25 years.
We do the usual reading, theater/music/movies, skiing (mostly Gene), camping (mostly when the kids were young), etc, but our civic commitment in Oak Park has been a central focus, something to which both Gene and I have devoted a lot of time and energy. Through a lot of hard work and creative ideas by a lot of people, the community has achieved a high degree of stability; the schools have remained excellent and home values have soared (contrary to dire predictions); and we are, after several lean years, very attractive to developers – so much so that people now complain about growth and density!!
Meanwhile, in my volunteer community and political work, I had done quite a bit of fund raising and was hired (when Matt was 6) as the fund raiser to bring Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” (a huge sculpture honoring real and fictional women in history) to Chicago. From that, I got a job as the Development Director for a not-for-profit organization – the Metropolitan Planning Council – a public policy advocacy organization working on quality of life issues such as housing, transportation, development, education funding and tax policy.
I am currently in my 23rd and – if all goes well – last year at MPC. I had actually expected to be “retired” by now, but…. I will likely get some other job, but perhaps part time.
As for Gene, I am betting that he will never retire officially… probably just let his work life get less and less hectic. But that, as my grandmother used to say, is on the next page.
We get to Madison regularly (though my father and mother have been gone now for 10 and 8 years, respectively) – for UW football games and to visit David and his family.
We would like to travel more ….have had some great trips to France, Ireland, Egypt, New Zealand, hiking into (and then out of!) the Grand Canyon over the Y2K New Year, etc. My hope is to go on safari.
I have a bad back (lumbago!!– I thought this was something old people got… but it turns out to be a real medical diagnosis, meaning deterioration of the lumbar spine…in my case, arthritis) and Gene has a stent in his heart, but life has been good and we are up to most tasks!
I finally did retire from the Metropolitan Planning Council four years ago after serving nearly 25 years as Development Director. The successful conclusion of the organization’s first capital campaign presented the ideal time to leave. I loved MPC and my job there, my colleagues, and the excitement of being involved in civic issues in the Chicago metropolitan region. I miss much about MPC, especially the connection to innovations in technology and people who can explain them to me! But I don’t miss the long hours or the fast-pace and pressure. Most of our friends were worried about how I, as a decidedly type A person, would adapt to retirement, but the transition was remarkably easy….I always knew there was a lazy person inside me just itching to get out! However, that opportunity did not come for a few more years because I had allowed myself to be elected vice-moderator of our church council (ours is a union church of Presbyterian and United Church of Christ and under our governance structure the moderator and vice-moderators are the lay leaders of the church) and just before I retired our lead minister quite unexpectedly left, leaving the moderator and me essentially in charge! This created much chaos and angst, and not just for the two of us. I also served on the Personnel Committee, so the ensuing three years were busy ones. Things got less hectic once we hired an interim minister and 18 months later a new lead pastor, but early on it was equivalent to a part-time job. All of that ended a year ago, but in January, Gene and I agreed to be the Planned Giving Coordinators for the church, so we are back in the saddle, so to speak.
Gene retired from his law practice last year, but still owns and manages the building where he had is offices in Oak Park. We both are still involved in local politics and I got involved in the Obama campaign. We continue to subscribe to the opera and two theater groups, enjoy movies and reading, attend Badger football games, walk 3 miles most days for exercise, do some biking, and take the grandkids (ages 8 and 5 1/2 ) tent camping each year. Our younger son’s wedding last year, tuck pointing the house, recontouring the back yard to (so far unsuccessfully) keep water out of our basement, and endless crowns, among other things, mean that we have not yet gone on safari. But I am still hopeful. Meanwhile, we content ourselves with winter trips to visit friends in Florida and trips to California to visit our son and daughter-in-law – and Jeanne Field.
We have our aches and pains and I escaped a brush with death in March 2008 (a very fast-acting, virulent stain of strep pneumonia and that became septic and put me in the hospital for 10 days, five of them on a respirator). I have many people to thank, especially Gene, for a full and remarkably quick recovery. But life is good, and lived at a somewhat slower pace. We love summer and spend as much time as the house, yard and other things allow on our deck drinking coffee, reading the newspaper or doing the crossword puzzle!
Looking forward to our reunion….who would believe 50 years could pass so quickly!
Wisconsin High School
55th Reunion – July 24 – 25, 2015
BIO: Ann Haberman Armstrong
Not much has changed for Gene and me since our last reunion. We are both retired and I am more often than not busier than I like to be doing community work/politics and being active in our church where I serve on the Church Council (the governing arm of the church) and have been an officer, am the Planned Giving Co-coordinator with Gene (really a part time job, but with no pay), and serving on a housing justice team. We continue to go regularly to the theater, movies and UW home football games in Madison, where we also get a chance to visit our older son, David, and grandchildren, Calvin (13) and Addie (10). We usually go to Southern California each year to visit our younger son, Matt, and his wife and two dogs and where we also get a chance to visit Jeanne Field and her husband, with whom we spent last New Year’s Eve and Day over lobster and bowl games, including UW’s. We also visit friends for a couple of weeks each winter in Coconut Grove (Miami) Florida. And we have an annual camping trip with our two grandchildren, from which we have just returned. We suffer the usual arthritic aches and pains, but I am proud to report that Gene and I were able to make it up (and down, which in my view is harder on steep, rocky climbs such as these) both the high bluffs at Devil’s Lake State Park, a feat I wasn’t at all sure I would be able to manage. Our biggest trip in the last five years was in Oct/Nov 2013. It was the proverbial "trip of a lifetime" to southern Africa -- Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. 2 1/2 weeks, virtually all of it in the bush on safari. Something I had wanted to do for 25 years. We saw the "Big Five" and much much more, including wonderful people and hundreds of spectacularly beautiful birds. I am so grateful to have had the experience. I would go back in a heartbeat if I had the money. Looking forward to our reunion in Madison and whatever Big Five -- or Thirty Five -- are there to be seen.