Diane Kyncl: Volunteering in Retirement
While my posts so far have been about working for compensation past age 70, I also plan to highlight individuals who retire from compensated work but remain active contributors through volunteering and philanthropy, beginning with my wife Diane. She isn’t 70 yet, but she is permanently retired and nearer to 70 than 60.
Diane began working at age 12, cleaning a neighbor’s house every Saturday. She later worked as a mother’s helper, then in a pizza restaurant, to save money for college. As her parents could not provide financial support, she completed a 3-year hospital-based program for nursing school, working on weekends in the hospital as she trained, rather than attend a four-year BSN program. In her twenties, while working as a registered nurse, she completed a bachelor’s degree in business at Metro State University in Denver. She worked for nearly 40 years as an RN, half of them as a labor and delivery nurse in Denver’s indigent hospital, where she worked 12 hours shifts with one half-hour lunch break, in a very demanding high stress environment. Towards the end of her career, she helped develop the Clinical Scholar Program at her hospital, where she was a clinical instructor for Regis University nursing students while they came through their Labor and Delivery clinical rotation. Finally, she finished her career in that hospital’s Women’s Care Clinic, where she developed a program for women experiencing high risk pregnancies and coordinated their access to care.
She retired on June 1st, 2013.
For the twelve years prior to retirement, she spent one of her 3 weeks annual vacation volunteering as a counselor, then camp nurse, at a summer camp for foster kids. Our daughter was married one week after her retirement. Diane volunteered at the camp for the final time two weeks after her retirement.
She reports “The smartest thing I ever did was retire June 1st, because I absolutely love summer. To begin a new season of my life during my favorite season was just bliss. I was able to catch my breath and make the adjustments I needed to make.”
A softball player since childhood, she joined a senior rec league, mostly men, on a team that accepted women players. She had given up playing on another team five years earlier, because her work schedule conflicted with playing. She joined a private lake in Denver, where she could pursue her passion for flyfishing close to home 2–3 days a week.
She quickly discovered that saying no was important. “When people find out that you’re retired, everybody wants you. My biggest question was what did God want me to do? I needed to say no.” She was asked to run for president of her women’s flyfishing club but declined. She considered joining me in my financial planning practice, and even began studying two hours per day for her licensing exams, but decided that she wasn’t doing it for herself, but because I (her husband) thought it would be a good idea. “I didn’t want to work that hard again in my life. I had always worked hard.” At that point she decided she was permanently retiring from work for pay.
In Fall 2013 Diane tracked down one of our daughter’s outstanding elementary teachers, Monica Neal, to see if she could volunteer in Mrs. Neal’s 1st Grade classroom. The answer was an enthusiastic yes. She has since volunteered one morning a week tutoring both advanced and struggling students in reading.
From 2013 through 2015 she volunteered at church to provide childcare for infants and toddlers in their MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and Mom’s Day Out programs. In 2014 we began to volunteer together on landscaping maintenance at church. In 2017, when a church small group we attended disbanded, Diane was challenged by church staff to begin a new small group in our home. We did so, and that group continues. The following year, she was asked to mentor twelve other small group leaders, which she did until that function was reassigned to paid church staff. In 2020 church staff asked if she would mentor a younger woman who is new to the Christian faith. That relationship continues.
Diane and I volunteer together at Pedro Arrupe Jesuit High School. The school is part of Cristo Rey, a national network of inner-city high schools that focus on providing the famous Jesuit education to less advantaged youth. The students work one day a week in local participating companies, to earn half of their tuition. Many come from immigrant families. Most are the first member of their family to graduate high school. Almost all are the first to go on to college. We help teach classes or tutor on business etiquette, resume writing, how to answer a business phone, goal setting and life skills, and help each year with grading the school’s essay contests. Some of the students go on to pursue health careers and seek out Diane for her experience in that arena. We also help with mock interviews to prepare some graduating students for their Daniel’s Fund College Scholarship interviews. A core value of the school is to introduce young people to Jesus, and to form them as servant leaders, “persons for others.” Like many married couples, Diane and I are quite different from each other in many aspects of personality and motivation. Arrupe gives us an opportunity to serve together in a way that checks all the boxes for both of us.
The founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, taught that when we are tracking with God, in “consolation”, we can trust our heart’s desires. That has certainly been true of the time we spend at Arrupe. Most of the students know they have been given an amazing opportunity to grow and they show up and fully engage with that opportunity. They have both Diane’s and my hearts. If Arrupe needs volunteers and we are in town, we are there. Recently an Arrupe student asked Diane why she volunteers there. Her answer, “Because when I was your age, I was you.”
Two years ago, we attended the awards breakfast at the school, honoring the top ten student essays of that year. 3 of the 10 students were going on to college to obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degrees. When Diane looked in the eyes of one of these three, Destiny, she knew immediately that God wanted us to help her. Through a series of fortunate events, Destiny now lives with us as she pursues her degree in nursing at Regis University. Diane feels blessed and honored to be a part of this remarkable young woman’s life.
We have established a scholarship to help support future Arrupe graduates who enter the nursing program at Regis University. We fund the scholarship out of our annual giving and have also made provision to endow it upon Diane’s passing.
Diane loves helping our neighbors. One is a 90-year-old widow. Diane provides a meal for her once a week. There are two young families that are neighbors. Diane loves to encourage and support these parents, remembering how challenging it was when our children were that age. Our four grandsons live far away, so she especially enjoys having young children in the neighborhood. She loves to garden, and loves having enough fresh produce to share with the neighborhood and friends.
Diane has always enjoyed cooking and entertaining. With retirement she has been able to go to a whole new level of engagement and fun with food.
Her last year of employment as a registered nurse, Diane cut her hours to half time. When she announced her retirement to her manager, Diane said “If you could give me six weeks (instead of three) off a year, I could continue a few more years.” The hospital was unable to comply with that request.
Diane was happy and content with her career as a registered nurse. In 2016–17, after a few years of feeling God wanted her to write about her career, she wrote a memoir “My Love Letter to Nursing.” The title says it all. The book is available on Amazon.com. She hopes the book encourages others to pursue the career.
As I write about all of Diane’s accomplishments in the years since her retirement, I feel it is important to clarify that she lives a balanced life. She takes time to exercise and play sports most days. She is a passionate flyfisher. She makes several flyfishing trips a year, sometimes with girlfriends and sometimes with her fortunate husband. She usually sleeps until 7 am, a luxury after years of awaking at 5:15am to head in for a 12-hour shift. She has time to meditate, pray, read, relax, garden, take walks. She loves to travel and continue to experience new things.
She sums up, “I’ve accomplished quite a bit (since retirement), but I don’t feel like it. It’s all been things I’m supposed to do. I don’t feel like I’ve done anything remarkable. Working as hard as I did as a nurse, this feels like cush city. This feels like coasting, just because nursing was such a challenging career.”
“I loved what I did (nursing), until the last year, when I burned out.”
“I’ve always been a caregiver. I have just chosen to change how I express it.”
Life mission isn’t always about career. Work isn’t always about getting paid.
Some Questions to Consider:
1. Are the demands of your career getting in the way of more important life goals?
2. Is downsizing your career an option?
3. Do you volunteer or help others in some way?
4. Is it time to consider your work/life/volunteer/family/relationship balance?
5. Is your heart drawing you toward increased commitment to volunteering or philanthropy?
Do you know someone who is working or actively volunteering past age 70? I would love to tell their story. email@example.com