Not retired — refocused

Martin Gibson talks to Bruce and Mary Ford about always learning and never retiring.

Martin Gibson talks to Bruce and Mary Ford about always learning and never retiring.

Making things better for the next generation: Bruce and Mary Ford found new meaning in their lives through their restoration work at Donner’s Bush on Riverside Road.
Mangatuna Stream. Picture by Malcolm Rutherford
Bruce And Mary Ford

AS BABY boomers head into their 60s, it is in their nature to be as re-inventive with retirement as they were with music technology and teenage years.

After careers in teaching, accounting and counselling, and with three daughters now in their 30s Bruce and Mary Ford returned to Gisborne, then headed outdoors with the help of EIT’s Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture programme.

“We came back five years ago to look after mum in the house I grew up in as a teenager, and I applied for a dozen jobs but I didn’t get one,” says Bruce with a good-natured chuckle.

“We did some online computer programmes and then the idea of horticulture came up.

“I spent 35 years working inside — Mary’s always been keen on gardening and we were keen to get some knowledge of the outdoors.

“I thought a leaf was a leaf and soil was soil but it’s a whole new world opening up.”

Mary saw Christchurch as home, but was born in Gisborne. Her father worked for the Post Office on the East Coast during WW2, and delivered telegrams telling families they had lost yet another young man. Bruce’s father spent years in a German POW camp and was reluctant to share his experiences.

Like many baby boomers, Bruce and Mary were pushed toward safe careers by parents who had been through the Great Depression. As they have grown older, they feel freer to be themselves, says Mary.

“The only regret I have when I look back is that I was more concerned that my house was tidy than with having fun with our children — too much of my life I lived to the expectations of others and now I don’t and I’m very happy with who I am.

“As we have gotten older, our relationship with God has become stronger and more precious. I don’t have to perform or do anything for God to love me I just know He loves me.

“We were very conscious that God brought us back here to Gisborne, but when Bruce got turned down for even packing and sorting fruit it was like, ‘God, this is a bit weird’.”

The couple work for stimulation more than money, and found new meaning in their lives through restoration work at Donner’s Bush on Riverside Road. Mary says it has been fascinating learning about the complexity of the natural world through their tutors.

“We have done a lot of physical work and some days we have thought: ‘We’re getting too old for this racket!’ but we’re watching it develop into something beautiful.

“Our tutor Leigh is so passionate, it’s contagious. It makes the bush come alive — the tutors are absolutely amazing.”

For Bruce, the restoration work they have done as part of their programme has made him feel like they are part of yet another revolution — a good one.

“The first time we went to Donner’s Bush the fence was being built. It was just scruffy and horrible and I thought: ‘Why would you bother?’

“Now we can see the effect of the fence and the trapping and planting. We have crossed the word retirement out of our vocabulary because the implications are awful.

“I think God values people who look after creation and I think that’s what it’s all about. We have to leave this planet in a better state for the next generation instead of raping the earth to get maximum productivity. It only takes a generation to change, doesn’t it?”

AS BABY boomers head into their 60s, it is in their nature to be as re-inventive with retirement as they were with music technology and teenage years.

After careers in teaching, accounting and counselling, and with three daughters now in their 30s Bruce and Mary Ford returned to Gisborne, then headed outdoors with the help of EIT’s Certificate in Sustainable Horticulture programme.

“We came back five years ago to look after mum in the house I grew up in as a teenager, and I applied for a dozen jobs but I didn’t get one,” says Bruce with a good-natured chuckle.

“We did some online computer programmes and then the idea of horticulture came up.

“I spent 35 years working inside — Mary’s always been keen on gardening and we were keen to get some knowledge of the outdoors.

“I thought a leaf was a leaf and soil was soil but it’s a whole new world opening up.”

Mary saw Christchurch as home, but was born in Gisborne. Her father worked for the Post Office on the East Coast during WW2, and delivered telegrams telling families they had lost yet another young man. Bruce’s father spent years in a German POW camp and was reluctant to share his experiences.

Like many baby boomers, Bruce and Mary were pushed toward safe careers by parents who had been through the Great Depression. As they have grown older, they feel freer to be themselves, says Mary.

“The only regret I have when I look back is that I was more concerned that my house was tidy than with having fun with our children — too much of my life I lived to the expectations of others and now I don’t and I’m very happy with who I am.

“As we have gotten older, our relationship with God has become stronger and more precious. I don’t have to perform or do anything for God to love me I just know He loves me.

“We were very conscious that God brought us back here to Gisborne, but when Bruce got turned down for even packing and sorting fruit it was like, ‘God, this is a bit weird’.”

The couple work for stimulation more than money, and found new meaning in their lives through restoration work at Donner’s Bush on Riverside Road. Mary says it has been fascinating learning about the complexity of the natural world through their tutors.

“We have done a lot of physical work and some days we have thought: ‘We’re getting too old for this racket!’ but we’re watching it develop into something beautiful.

“Our tutor Leigh is so passionate, it’s contagious. It makes the bush come alive — the tutors are absolutely amazing.”

For Bruce, the restoration work they have done as part of their programme has made him feel like they are part of yet another revolution — a good one.

“The first time we went to Donner’s Bush the fence was being built. It was just scruffy and horrible and I thought: ‘Why would you bother?’

“Now we can see the effect of the fence and the trapping and planting. We have crossed the word retirement out of our vocabulary because the implications are awful.

“I think God values people who look after creation and I think that’s what it’s all about. We have to leave this planet in a better state for the next generation instead of raping the earth to get maximum productivity. It only takes a generation to change, doesn’t it?”

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