March 3, 2024

Coming of Age

Three women, three post-retirement adventures
By Ross Boissoneau | Nov. 5, 2022

There are all kinds of cliches meant to suggest that as you get older, your habits, behaviors, and attitudes get more ingrained. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, right?

Wrong. For many, getting older means new thoughts, new experiences, new adventures. Travel, activism, even new modes of expression.

The Open Road
Take Carol Lambertson, for example. A longtime employee at Munson Medical Center, she retired in 2017. “I spent 27 years in cancer research, 30 years all told,” she says.

So retirement—then what? “I’d been dreaming about traveling. I owned a pop-up camper. I looked at van living and the RV lifestyle.”

So she decided to travel, and added to it an activity she’d also been doing: “I’d been pet sitting for friends and friends of friends,” Lambertson says.

She sold her home in Interlochen and was almost ready to hit the road, but she knew she needed something more than her little camper to pack her life in. “I came on a motorhome for sale. It was 28 feet long. I’d never driven anything of that size. I was scared to death,” she recalls. Nevertheless, on a snowy day in January, she started it up and headed south to visit friends in Florida.

Since then, Lambertson has spent summers in northern Michigan and the off-season wherever she has friends or a pet-sitting gig—whether that’s Florida, New Mexico, or Georgia. This fall, she’s been pet-sitting for friends near Honor, then will head off to Virginia, where she’ll be living in the lower level of a home while keeping tabs on a friend’s mother upstairs.

Her month in Virginia will allow her new 22-foot mini-light travel trailer to be repaired after an incident with some tree branches. “[The motorhome] worked, but I downsized,” she says. Now she’s more mobile than ever, as she can drive her pickup truck wherever she wants while leaving the trailer set up.

So it’s onward and upward for the so-called Granny on the Fly. “That’s a name I gave myself. I said I was a granny running away,” Lambertson says with a laugh. “I’ll keep traveling and pet-sitting. Someday I won’t be able to do this, but it’s my choice.”

The New Story
Northport resident Sarah Shoemaker says she’s had several different occupations over the years. “I’ve been a lot of things: stay-at-home mom, teacher, proofreader. I wrote a lot that didn’t get published, so I went to library school and became a librarian,” she says.

But that writing bug never let go. After retiring, Shoemaker turned back to her love of writing, and today is the author of two published books. Mr. Rochester, a retelling of Jane Eyre, was published in 2017, and last month HarperCollins released her second book, Children of the Catastrophe.

The first book came to be because she enjoyed Jane Eyre and wondered about the other characters. Mr. Rochester approaches the classic by Charlotte Brontë through the eyes of the original title character’s employer and later husband. Shoemaker was always intrigued by the character and his mix of traits, described as proud, sardonic, harsh, and moody. She wondered how and why he came to be that way, so she set out to provide the details of his life.

“I thought somebody should write his story,” says Shoemaker. “So I decided I would. I hoped and still hope that readers find him a little more understandable.”

Her second book is a historical novel about the tragedy of the burning of Smyrna, a city on the Agean coast of Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the city was an important financial and cultural center of the Greek world. The Ottomans of that era referred to the city as “Infidel Smyrna” due to the numerous Greeks and the large non-Muslim population.

After the end of WWI, Greece occupied it briefly before Turkish army entered the city at the end of the Greco-Turkish War. A fire broke out, destroying most of the Greek and Armenian quarters of the city on September 13, 1922, with a death toll estimated to range from 10,000 to 100,000.

“I heard about the burning of the most cosmopolitan city on the Mediterranean Sea. Very few Americans have ever heard of it,” Shoemaker says. So she wrote the story of the Melopoulos family of Smyrna, their loves and quarrels, their hopes and disappointments, all set against the backdrop of the tragic fire, the cause of which is still debated today.

Is there more to come? Though she’s reluctant to provide any details, she leaves the door open to future stories. “I wouldn’t be surprised,” she says.

The Great Outdoors
For Margaret Pierson, it’s not so much a new adventure that captures her days as it is the opportunity to devote more time to her environmental passions. She says her love of the water and the environment have been ingrained in her since her youth. Pierson grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 1,000 Lakes, and lived around Lake Minnetonka before moving to a farm where the outdoors always beckoned. When she relocated as an adult to northern Michigan in 1995, she fell in love with its beaches and watersheds.

It’s no wonder she’s become a vocal proponent of the environment and water in particular. “I moved from enjoyer to advocate,” she says. In 2013 she learned of Line 5, and was moved by the efforts of activists like Jim Olson, Elizabeth Kirkwood, Bill Latka, and others. “I saw the political connection and began to visit Lansing to discuss water policy,” Pierson says.

She also lived a life connecting with nature, purchasing property in the woods outside Empire in 2016, where she even fed birds by hand. “They would greet my car when I pulled in,” she says wonderingly.

Pierson retired from her career as a music teacher at Traverse City Area Public Schools in 2018, and two years later bought a condo in Arizona where she now winters. Two years after that her plans changed again. She sold her home in Traverse City and the Empire property and bought a cottage on Little Platte Lake where she often watches the sun rise while listening to the loons. “I love what the light does here. I’ve got woods on two sides and the lake on another.”

She’s also furthered her interest in and activism for water resources beyond the Midwest. She was invited to become involved with a sustainable water group in Tucson, and is excited to have been introduced to the challenges of water in that area.



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