Celebrating 25 Years in Retirement

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Mrs. Ruth E. Dodge has been an artist, art studio manager, and author-and that is only since retiring. A living refutation of the prominent myth that seniors seek only relaxation, Mrs. Dodge has spent the last 25 years of retirement honing her many talents and exploring new interests and inspirations.

“I loved to paint even before I was sent to Kindergarten,” says Mrs. Dodge, who quickly advanced beyond her finger-painting peers. As a budding artist, her first job was painting children’s portraits. Later, Mrs. Dodge became an art restorer. She apprenticed herself to a talented, local restorer to learn the intricate trade. Over the next 20 years, she worked on a series of invaluable artworks-literally bringing them back to life.

During a visit with friends in California, Ruth and her husband, Bob, began to consider retiring. Their friend was a resident at a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) offering lifelong care with a comprehensive continuum of services. The Dodges liked the community so much that they began searching for one closer to home.

When the couple learned that Fairhaven, a CCRC in nearby Sykesville, MD, had recently broken ground, they decided to move. The early days at Fairhaven proved to be formative for the community atmosphere that endures today. New residents, including the Dodges, pitched in to help the community get off and running. Mrs. Dodge recalls, “We immediately enjoyed all the people, who were all so willing to help.” Fairhaven’s programs grew rapidly-thanks in no small part to Ms. Dodge and other motivated residents.

Ruth, with all her experience in the art community, and Bob, a former architect and artist, were instrumental in the development of the art program. When Mr. Dodge passed away, Ruth was asked to take over the program. One of her first projects was to organize a major event in honor of Fairhaven’s 10th Anniversary. She remembers, “I decided we needed a really big splash for the Anniversary, something that would reach out to the greater community.”

Mrs. Dodge got her splash with a juried art show. Entries came from galleries and professional artists throughout the area. Residents and community members enjoyed the art show, which continues to be a biennial Fairhaven tradition.

Mrs. Dodge also helped her fellow residents explore their artistic talents. She kept the community art studio open seven days a week for 17 years. After years of service, she gave up her position with the art program in order to devote herself to writing. Mrs. Dodge recently completed a self-published exploration of the Gospel of John, entitled God’s Gift.

From the very memorable 10th anniversary to the current celebration of 25 years and at every milestone along the way, Mrs. Dodge has seen changing options, interests, and faces at Fairhaven. As she celebrates her silver anniversary in retirement, she looks back fondly on her first, while anticipating her twenty-sixth. After all, anniversaries are equal parts reminiscences and possibilities. What the combination will bring only the coming year can tell.

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