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For Smiths, retirement just means working without pay

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BATTLEMENT MESA ” When asked, “What kind of hobbies do you have? What do you like to do for fun?” Dick and Helen Smith both looked sort of bewildered.

After mulling that concept over for a few moments, Helen had one thing that came to mind.

“Eat!” she said.



Sitting in her comfy chair in the Smiths’ living room last week, Helen threw her head back and laughed, as Dick, settled into his own Lazy-Boy lounger, joined in.

That’s because for these two, the concept of hobbies is almost foreign. They’ve simply been too busy living their lives.



Along the way, that’s included raising 19, yes, 19 kids (“Two legitimate and the other 17 we fostered”), said Dick with a smile.

It’s also included giving more than their share back to the communities fortunate enough to have them as members, from their upbringing in Denver, to their family life in Evergreen, and now, their “retirement” (in quotes on purpose) in Battlement Mesa.

From roller skating to music

Don’t let Dick and Helen fool you. These two have their share of hobbies.

Helen said she used to roller skate, and Dick “lives and breathes computers,” according to his wife.

Music is also a big part of the couple’s life. Dick and Helen first met in an all-school band when Helen was in junior high and Dick was in high school. Helen played the glockenspiel and Dick played the French horn. Coincidentally, local jazz pianist Walt Smith (no relation) was in the same band.

Now, Dick sings in the Mountain Sounds Barbershop Chorus, Helen plays the organ for their church ” and they still see Walt Smith, who now lives in Battlement Mesa. They even frequent The Sopris restaurant south of Glenwood Springs to hear Walt play on Tuesday nights.

‘Bright and shiny’

The Smiths aren’t in the work-a-day world anymore. Dick spent his career as a master electrician and college professor teaching electronics and computer technology at Red Rocks Community College. Helen worked at several Denver-based credit unions in between raising flocks of children.

Helen’s diabetes, which she contracted in 1979, slowed her down a little, and the last 10 years she said she’s been “pretty sick,” but is starting to feel better.

“I’ve reached a point where I don’t care if I do anything,” Helen said with a grin. “I’ve worked hard! It’s time to have picnics when the sun comes out bright and shiny.”

Still, Helen’s definition of “not doing anything” is different from most people’s.

Together with Dick, she has given thousands of hours of volunteer time to numerous community projects since moving to Battlement Mesa nine years ago. That includes volunteering at the Parachute Senior Center, the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s bluebird project, and the Mesa Vista Assisted Living Center.

In addition, she and Dick are tutors for the Kiwanis Read-Write program at Bea Underwood Elementary and St. John Middle School in Parachute.

For Dick, retirement in Battlement Mesa just means there’s more time to get involved in community efforts. He’s a past president of the Grand Valley Kiwanis Club, and volunteers with the High Country Retired and Senior Volunteer Program. He also volunteers, repairing computers and teaching computer skills at C4S, Computers for Seniors in Battlement Mesa.

A load of fun

Along the way, the Smiths have had a load of fun.

You can tell by the way they talk to each other, giggling and finishing each other’s sentences.

And you can tell by their 4-year-old Pomeranian named Sadie, who’s so full of joy she can’t help but run around in tight little circles in the middle of the living room floor, but only when she’s not languishing on Dick’s lap having her tummy rubbed and her ears scratched.

Debera Stewart, the director of senior programs at Colorado Mountain College, nominated Dick for a 2003 Garfield County Humanitarian Service Award. The couple was nominated for the same honor in 2002.

“Dick has an enormous love for life and humor … and teaches us to belly laugh ” as if our life depended on it,” Stewart wrote in her 2003 nomination letter, which was read aloud Feb. 2 at a dinner honoring area volunteers.

“It does!” chimed in Dick with a big smile, as he took center stage ” albeit humbly ” at the awards dinner.

Back at home in Battlement Mesa, Dick said it’s laughter and lifelong learning that keep him and Helen vibrant members of the community.

“I still go by the adage that you’ve got to keep learning,” Dick said. “My whole life has been spent as a lifelong learner. It’s a constant learning experience.”

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

cclick@postindependent.com


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