Walking the World: 55 and Over Fitness
Dr. Robert and Helen Dubel have done their fair share of walking in their 58 years together. They’ve walked across the sprawling ice sheets of Antarctica, the rugged and dusty jungles of Sub-Saharan Africa, through the sky-high mountains of Tibet and, these days, on the trails near Glen Meadows Retirement Community in Glen Arm, Maryland.
In fact, Maryland is where their walks together first began.
“My wife and I met at Western Maryland College,” recalled Robert, known to his friends and family as Bob. “The first week I met her in biology laboratory, and just by good fortune we were assigned the same pig to dissect.”
The former Marine had just returned from the South Pacific, where he served in World War II. Helen, though she admitted their first meeting wasn’t exactly the most romantic, was smitten with him right away.
“I liked him the minute I saw him,” she said. “And vice versa.”
After the couple was finished with the project, Bob suggested they wash their hands and take a walk.
“We’ve been walking ever since,” he said. “There are six walking trails at Glen Meadows and we walk them all.”
Now the couple has decided to cruise into a leisurely stroll, after a lively and fast-paced life full of professional and personal accomplishments.
Bob led a busy career with the Baltimore County Public Schools, where for 16 years he was the superintendent. He was a pupil of the schools as a boy.
“It’s rather neat growing up as a student in a school system, and then becoming the superintendent,” said Bob. “It gave me a real emotional investment in the system, and so that’s why I was there for so long.”
After retiring in 1992, he began a five-year stint as a faculty member at the University of Maryland, College Park that ended only “when he got tired of running up and down Route 95,” he said with a laugh.
Helen was busy as well, raising the couple’s four children, teaching yoga, art and piano classes, and working as a real estate agent and party planner.
Though both Helen and Bob led very busy professional lives, they always made time to travel once or twice each year – either with their four children, a tour group or by themselves.
Their patio home at the community is filled with souvenirs and memorabilia from their journeys, which included trips to all seven continents and 64 countries. Exotic oil paintings and pastels by Helen adorn the brightly-colored walls, African vases line almost every shelf in the living room, and one spare room even has flag patches from almost every place they’ve visited.
“They keep making countries faster than we can get to them,” said Bob.
For a couple as well traveled as the Dubels, downsizing all the keepsakes they had accumulated from their journeys was quite a task. They said it took about four months, but with the help of their children and colleagues, they gave away enough to fit in their new home with ease.
“We still had a dump truck full of stuff,” joked Bob. “To avoid that, you should move more than one time every 50 years, and don’t save so much stuff!”
Just after settling in, Bob and Helen then decided to move within the community to a more spacious location. It was hard to go through the move a second time, but they said it was ultimately worth the effort.
“I think the staff had us moved from one place to the other in about two hours,” Bob said. “We thought it was funny we had moved once in 50 years and then twice in six months. We’ve always been travelers, but have been very rooted in our home.”
After getting married in 1948, the couple took their first trip to Europe, which cost them a grand total of $900 for 35 days. Their accommodations were simple, but allowed them to see the essential sights.
“We traveled everywhere third class,” said Helen. “But it was one of the best trips we’ve ever had together.”
These days the couple spends most of their time at Glen Meadows, which is just a short trip away from most of their children and grandchildren. They said the decision to retire at the community was made almost immediately after their first visit.
“Well this looks like the place,” Helen remembers saying as the two drove up Glen Meadows’ driveway for a visit. They both grew up in rural environments, and had spent 50 years in a house in the woods together in Villa Nova, Md. When they saw the lush landscaping, felt the crisp country air and walked down the pathways flanked with trees, they knew it was a place where they’d feel right at home.
“After growing up in a village, now I am retiring in a village,” said Bob. He added that the size, rural appearance and friendliness of residents and staff influenced his decision to choose Glen Meadows.
Like many couples who are choosing to enter retirement communities at a younger age, Helen and Bob said they wanted to take advantage of the offered amenities while they were still in good health.
“We wanted to travel more, and our health was very good,” said Helen. “I think a lot of people make the mistake of waiting until they have health problems.”
Helen spends much of her time creating oil paintings, pastels and stone sculptures, along with some needlepoint work. She enjoys singing in the community’s choir, as well as line dancing and basket weaving. Bob is vice president of the residents’ association at Glen Meadows, and enjoys reading, playing golf, hiking on the community’s many trails and attending the various continuing education classes offered there. Both enjoy attending their grandchildren’s sporting games.
The couple’s next trip will most likely be a tour of the Mediterranean.
“It’s a good life,” said Helen. “I’m excited for the future.”