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PUBLICATIONS Inside Illinois Vol. 21, No. 8, Oct. 18, 2001

Traveling, golf and household activities fill WahlfeldtÕs retirement

By Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244 -1072; slforres@illinois.edu

Photo by Bill Wiegand
How did she find time to work? Irene Wahlfeldt retired from the English department after working at the UI for 30 years.

Retiree Irene Wahlfeldt has been keeping so busy during her retirement, she doesn’t understand how she ever found time to work.

A 30-year employee of the university, Wahlfeldt retired in January from the English department. She had been the manager in the department business office since 1984.

Although she came back for a month this spring to help the Graduate College with a Big Ten conference, Wahlfeldt was glad the position was short-term. After a month, Wahlfeldt was ready to return to her retired life and all the activities she had had little time for while working.

With no job taking up her weekday hours, Wahlfeldt’s had more time for household chores such as landscaping the yard, tending her perennial flowers, painting inside the house and helping out her elderly parents, who live nearby.

"I don’t know how I ever had time to work," Wahlfeldt said. "But you put yourself in a different gear after you retire. Before everything was just on a pretty strict schedule. So, all of a sudden you find that you can go at your own pace."
Now, she no longer keeps a pad of paper next to the bed to jot notes about things to be done the following day as she did when she was working.

Since her retirement, Wahlfeldt has enjoyed reading books that have been in her collection yet remained unread for several years, such as Irving Wallace’s "The Seventh Secret," a novel about Adolf Hitler and mistress Eva Braun.

Retirement for Wahlfeldt means more time to have fun. She plays the piano and an electronic keyboard, mainly singing for her own enjoyment but also performing in a choir at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, Urbana.
An avid golfer, Wahlfeldt spent the summer playing in a women’s league once or twice a week on the orange course at the UI golf course, Savoy. Although she has belonged to the league for four years, it was difficult for her to squeeze in time to play while working. Next season, she has agreed to co-chair the league.

Wahlfeldt and her husband, Fred, who retired from Printing Services at the university four years ago, also like to take their 8- and 11-year-old granddaughters tubing on Clinton Lake with the 19-foot ski boat they bought two summers ago. For the first time in five or six years, Wahlfeldt also went water skiing this summer.

Their dual retirement has also given the Wahlfeldts more time for traveling. As is their custom, they spent the month of February at a rented condo in Fort Myers, Fla., in addition to traveling to Philadelphia, Seattle and Toronto.

The Wahlfeldts were in the Seattle area, visiting the nearby city of Bellingham and the San Juan Islands when the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings occurred. The subsequent air traffic shutdown delayed the Wahlfeldts’ return by four days, stranding them in Seattle for two days, then in Denver another day. Flight cancellations also forced them to detour to Minneapolis instead of Milwaukee. Once back home in Urbana, the Wahlfeldts then had to travel to Indianapolis to retrieve their car from the airport parking lot.
"That was kind of a frightening time for me," Wahlfeldt said, "because I’m not a seasoned flier anyway, although we’ve flown a lot of places. I’d just as soon get in the car and go somewhere. We were the first flight out of Seattle on Friday morning for United Airlines, and that was a pretty somber flight. The stewardesses seemed kind of fearful, and the passengers definitely [were]."

Despite that experience, the Wahlfeldts are considering another trip soon, although they have not settled on a destination yet. Wahlfeldt said she’d like to go east and see the fall foliage.

Wahlfeldt said she knows her neighbors better now because she has more time to chat when she sees them. Routine activities such as shopping for groceries and working out at Gold’s Gym, Urbana, are more enjoyable now too because she can do them during daytime hours when places aren’t as crowded. The only drawback Wahlfeldt seems to have found to her retirement thus far is that she’s winding up on more church committees.

"People ask me, ‘Aren’t you going to back to work?’ " Wahlfeldt said. "There’s got to be more to life than working all the time. Maybe I’ll be one of those who, hopefully, will have a whole ’nother retired life."


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