Well-seasoned Workforce

By Tawny Maya McCray

April 27, 2020 4 min read

Some people can't wait to retire; they look forward to the day they don't have to work anymore. Others, once they reach retirement age, enjoy staying busy so much that they choose to keep working, often times changing things up to do something they truly enjoy.

Helen Copeland, 72, retired a few years ago after a long career as a schoolteacher and set off on another job almost immediately.

"I failed at retirement; I'm now a professor at National University where I teach teachers," she said. "When I was a teacher, I had a person come to my room one time to do an evaluation and I said, 'How did you get into this? She told me, and I said, 'I want to do that when I retire.' When I knew I was going to retire, I started sending out resumes."

Copeland said her decision to retire wasn't because she was tired of teaching but because she was tired of administrators. She says her new line of work suits her quite well.

"I am a forever learner, and I enjoy the challenge," she said. "I like to observe other people and learn from people and I like to be able to share what I know with other people."

Plus, she said, she enjoys the flexible schedule.

"I work up to five hours a day and can take off when I want," she said.

She said she likes to stay busy and doesn't know when she'll kick up her heels and retire for good.

"I'm not stopping until I have to, until something prevents me from going," she said.

Jeffrey McGee, 65, turned to one of his passions -- woodworking -- when he retired after more than three decades as a mechanical engineer.

"I grew up in South West Virginia, where there are lots of furniture factories. For a couple of summers during high school, I would work at the furniture factories to earn some money," he said. "I've always loved woodworking, and when I got to the point in my career where I had an opportunity, and it looked like it was going to be self-supporting, I jumped at the chance. It is a passion."

McGee and his wife, Elizabeth, also 65, run Home Decor Creations, an online business they started in 2014. They sell handcrafted wood wine racks, wine glass shelves and champagne walls. McGee is the designer, creator and woodworker; Elizabeth does the marketing, blogging and shipping.

All the items are built 100% by McGee.

"Most people go into a business on their own to grow it into something really big," he said. "This thing I wanted to do it by myself, no employees. So our biggest challenge is throttling it down to keep it within what I can get done and still make enough revenue and profit margin to keep the lights on."

McGee said each piece takes about three man hours to complete.

"I put in a lot of hours, more hours than I used to work. But it's not like it's work; it's more like therapy for me," he said.

The couple sells their products on Etsy, eBay, Amazon and on their website, homedecorcreations.com. McGee says their bestsellers are their various wine glass shelves, and the newly added champagne walls.

McGee said he's enjoying his new job and hopes to one day sell part of the business and transition into making high-end furniture, like coffee tables, end tables, dining room tables, doors, and chairs.

McGee said he feels blessed to be able to work doing something he loves.

"You know what they say, 'If you do what you love, you don't work a day in your life,'" he said. "So I haven't really worked since I retired."

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