Reinvention 2.0 - Creating New Lives in Retirement
Rochelle and George Stassa met in New York City and they have been living super-charged lives since their first meeting at a mid-town party. “The entertainment for the evening was a ventriloquist who was so bad that his lips moved more than the dummy’s,” recalls Rochelle. “We could barely contain our laughter and had to leave the room. We thank him for bringing us together! We have been sharing laughter ever since.
Although George had season tickets to Carnegie Hall and The American Ballet Theater, Rochelle became a bit apprehensive when one of their early dates was to be an evening spent dining and dancing. Her anxiety quickly turned to rapture as George led her graciously around the dance floor. He passed the test! He certainly put his best foot forward!
Rochelle, a daughter of immigrants, has rich memories of growing up surrounded by family. Her grandparents, great-grandmother and two uncles all lived next door to the third-floor walk-up where she lived with her parents and four siblings. The first in her extended family to attend college, Rochelle grew up to be an English Professor at the City University of New York. Her career was rewarding and enriching.
Upon retiring, she can now "do what she loves" and has cultivated her writing passion with memoir writing. She is published in A Tapestry Woven from Threads of Our Lives a compilation of stories written in a memoir class at the Pierian Springs Academy in Sarasota. "The stories illustrate universals in human relationships and transcend historical, cultural and geographic spaces.” The memoirs, chapters from larger works, provide lessons and legacies for this generation and those to come. Rochelle's chapter, "Grandma's Table" is part of her larger work "Faded Photographs: Treasured Memories" and introduces the reader to her "large, noisy, loving family in a world long forgotten but still so vibrant." She invites the reader into "Grandma's home,” the center of her life for so many years” – See us ... hear our voices ... engage in the music of our lives."
In Sarasota, Rochelle volunteered as a reading specialist at Gocio School where she taught 1:1 reading and received "Volunteer of the Year" Award. She now paints twice a week at Art Center Sarasota using oils, watercolor and pastels.
She is a talented chef and contributed a Mandel Bread recipe in the July issue of LBK Isles Life. This recipe from her grandmother, Rifka, is a "family recipe, repeated through generations" – keeping "memories alive and dear ones close." She also plays Canasta and Mah Jong with neighborhood friends every week.
George fell in love with history at PS 144, a grade school in Queens, NY, where he won the History Medal. He intended to be a history teacher, however, a chat with a freshman advisor at Columbia College diverted him to a career in medicine. He attended the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons and became a Radiologist.
George was a clinical associate professor at Cornell Medical College where he taught Radiology and Anatomy.
He also set up a private practice which has become one of the largest, independent imaging groups in Manhattan, with four offices on the East Side. The practice was the first in New York City to have a Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine!
It took until his retirement to Sarasota and Bay Isles, that George could channel his passion for history into a teaching position at the Longboat Key Education Center. Through his courses, George tries to teach things not learned in high school or college. He finds interesting topics and brings them to life with insight and humor and is an engaging source of "cocktail party history." For example, this season he offers a class on the Civil War from the perspective of those who lived through this period from their letters, diaries and publications. His new class for the 2018-19 session will be an Analysis of the Role of the Commander in Chief, evaluating the five best and the five worst U.S. wartime Presidents. We predict that this will be a very popular course.
All of George's classes are multi-media to keep the students' attention. He projects images with a PowerPoint presentation, uses diagrams, plays music appropriate to the time and livens things up with sound effects. George says that he learned PowerPoint from some of the boys he has mentored at local High Schools and from his grandson.
George recommends an active approach to retirement: "Do things you enjoy and do them for fun. This will be good for your self-esteem." He has deadlines every day so that he has things to do, a purpose and learns new things.
Rochelle is using the same strategy with her writing and artistic endeavors. Besides teaching, George plays tennis five times a week and golf four times each week.
The Stassas spend summer months at their home in Lenox, MA, in the Berkshire mountains. It is a lovely contrast to their bayfront home in Queen's Harbor which they enjoy during the winter months. This year they adopted an 8-week old black and silver male Goldendoodle who has become a joyful addition to the household. George is sure that Shadow is the smartest dog.
Travel has been an important addition to their lives and has included spending New Year’s Eve at the King of Morocco’s party at his palace in Fez, a journey to Komodo Island, a visit to the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, a float in the Dead Sea and many visits to France and Italy. A month in Paris, while living in an apartment, offered an intimate experience, unlike previous hotel visits. Future travel plans include children and grandchildren.
Their children and grandchildren love to visit and carry on traditions that Rochelle learned growing up surrounded by family, as well as creating new family traditions with each visit to this paradise.
This dynamic duo is an inspiration. Thank you, Rochelle and George, for sharing your stories.