Las Vegas Sun

September 21, 2017

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Columnist Tom Gorman: On getting some value out of life during retirement years and not just sitting around getting bored with it

Tom Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-2310.

I met another neighbor the other day, a fellow named Chick. He came over to introduce himself while we were having a garage sale. He was quick with a smile and handshake.

I asked him how he was doing. I assumed he'd say something like, "Just fine. Great day, eh? So how d'ya like the neighborhood?"

Instead, when I asked him how he was doing he said: "Not well. I'm retired. Don't ever retire."

So much for warming up over pleasantries. He elaborated: "I'm bored."

Interesting how people's attitudes vary toward retirement.

He brought to mind two other people I've met recently, retirees whose lives intersected for about 20 seconds, but who are remarkably similar in how they are staying active.

I met them when I took Jeanne and her mother, Mary, to a Debbie Reynolds performance at the Suncoast. (One of the highlights of the evening was looking around at the audience and feeling quite young as a result.)

The usher who took us to our booth was a fellow named Les Lampert. He's 75 and a retired traveling salesman.

For 32 years, Les sold manufactured pearls to jewelry and department stores up and down the Eastern Seaboard. After the company was sold five years ago, he and his wife, Margaret, moved to Las Vegas from Orlando, Fla., and bought a place near Lone Mountain.

Margaret hadn't worked for 20 years, but decided to get a job at the Suncoast. "She loves it," said Les.

He was hired part time as a showroom usher and looks dapper in his black slacks and red shirt.

"Every night we get 400 to 500 people, and we can seat them in 12 minutes," he boasted. "Everyone knows us after a while. I can't wait to go to work. I like people. Nobody gives me a hard time. Even if they lost their rent money and are in a bad mood, I make them smile."

Among the people Les seated was Ellen Waters. He delivered her to our table. She's 83 and was all gussied up, and sociable as could be. During the evening, she leaned over and whispered to Mary, leaving us young 'uns in the dark. Turns out Ellen knew a lot of Hollywood scoop.

Ellen moved to Summerlin 15 years ago from Pasadena, Calif., where she owned thoroughbred race horses. She met people such as Harry James, Betty Grable and Walter Matthau. After President Richard Nixon resigned, she volunteered at the Western White House in San Clemente and helped answer fan mail.

Over the years she was married twice. She's alone now.

There's no reason to stay home at night, she said. "I don't cook and I don't do housework," she said. "I never had any children and I've run out of relatives."

She has volunteered a lot, through Catholic Charities, helping the Clark County Health Department administer vaccination shots to schoolchildren. And she has helped the county registrar of voters at election time. For several years, she volunteered at the gift shop at Valley Hospital.

But for real fun on the town, Ellen heads for the casinos. She learned to play video poker by reading three books on the subject, and went to gambling seminars to learn more strategies.

Three casinos in town have hired her to help out with their slot tournaments. She works the registration desk and helps keep score. Occasionally she participates in video poker tournaments, too.

"I've been doing this for 10 years, and love seeing all my friends," she said. "Some have gone by the wayside, but when I see the others, it's like old-home week. After the tournaments, we have dinner together and enjoy each other's company."

This is Ellen's view of retirement, and it's decidedly more upbeat than Chick's: "At this age, I can do whatever I want."