Not everyone is waiting for their body to break down before making their home safe and completely accessible!
When I first met Carlos and Ronnie, I would have guessed they were in their late 60’s maybe early 70’s. Both were youthful, bright eyed and eager to connect and share their wonderful adventures in life!
While each came from very different backgrounds, their story truly blossomed when they connected as a couple. Ronnie was born into a household of nine children and a family that moved many times over the course of her own childhood – resulting in attendance at five different high schools! When Ronnie was in 9th grade, they lived in a small house in Gilroy, CA in an apricot orchard. Her parents worked in San Francisco and stayed in a rented apartment during the week. Her responsibilities included preparing breakfast for everyone and getting the children ready for school so all nine of them could walk to the school bus stop together. Later, Ronnie married at a young age to a Navy man and together they had 3 beautiful daughters. Sadly, her husband Pat passed away too early in life, leaving Ronnie to figure things out now as a single mom.
She had a goal to become a nurse educator, so she earned a BS in nursing at CSULA and an MS in nursing education at UCLA. She held a full-time teaching position at CSULA for 30 years and became a Full Professor. While teaching and providing patient care as Adult Nurse Practitioner, she did research on pharmacology and co-authored two editions of the textbook “Nursing Pharmacology and Therapeutics”. 1981, 1988.
In 1980, Ronnie joined the US Army Reserve Nurse corps and after seven years in the Army, she retired as a Lieutenant Colonel.
In 1995 and 1996, she was invited to go to the UK to teach two, three week, eight hours a day physical assessment classes in London and at Oxford University. This introduced a new role (Nurse Practitioner) in England. The director of the program was hoping to develop a complete Nurse Practitioner program. Ronnie enjoyed all her student-teacher relationships and finally decided to completely retire at age 71. I venture to say that her version of “retirement” is very different than the average person’s.
Carlos was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During his high school years, he studied what he enjoyed: math, science, and chemistry. At this time, in 1953, he designed and built his own radio transmitter and became a licensed Radio Amateur with call letters LU3DEK. This designer experience was of value in his further studies and work in a different scientific field; biochemistry.
To pursue his studies in biochemistry, he enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires, Faculty of Pharmacy and Biochemistry. Out of over 2,000 students in the first year, Carlos was among the eight that finished after six years. During his second year, he published his first book on Botany. Not because he was particularly interested in the subject, but because a bookstore nearby saw his notes and realized the value! He had summarized various botany textbooks and made sketches. He earned income for several years selling the book and received 25% of the sale price.
Late in October 1963 Carlos came to the USA in a Pan Am plane. It was early in the morning and the lights were out with most passengers asleep. Suddenly he heard a voice and the light came on. The voice said: "We'll be arriving at the Miami airport in a few minutes. If you look out your windows you can see that we are just over the island of Cuba".
What came to Carlos’ mind is that, a few days before, a rocket had been launched from Cape Canaveral and debris dropped over Cuba and killed some cows. Fidel Castro was furious and yelled over the radio and TV that he was going to shoot down any American planes flying over Cuba! Suddenly what he read hundreds of miles away in the newspaper became relevant to his life.
Through a sequence of events, Carlos ended up working at Harbor-UCLA in Torrance because of his histamine work at the University in Argentina.
He continued his interest in Amateur Radio and, after becoming a citizen in 1969, he obtained his US ham radio license as WB6MCW.
He also pursued studies at UCLA and got his PhD in 1974. He received several NIH Research Grants and worked as Principal Investigator at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in his 2000 sq. ft. research laboratory. He authored over 100 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals and books.
Carlos went on to teach histology at UCLA Medical School for about 18 years to a class of 140 medical, dental and graduate students.
Both Carlos and Ronnie became Certified Scuba Divers in 1976 but met many years later at the LA Underwater Photography Society. They were active underwater photographers who enjoyed many scuba diving trips and collected thousands of beautiful underwater pictures. They even created their own non-profit organization: The South Bay Underwater Photographic Society. They met monthly in different locations in Torrance and Palos Verdes, offering presentations, photography classes and displays of photos by their members.
Carlos and Ronnie made various presentations in scuba diving clubs and conventions. They also organized two underwater photographic competitions and exhibits at the San Pedro Maritime Museum and the Palos Verdes Art Center.
In 1985 Carlos got his private pilot license. Later he also upgraded his amateur license to Extra class with new call letters WD6Y. He is currently pursuing international communications bouncing signals off the moon (EME).
In 1991 they had an underwater wedding in Vanuatu. Vanuatu is off the coast of northern Australia and the subject of the movie South Pacific. Now that they are in their 80’s, they stopped scuba diving a few years ago. They still enjoy the water, but instead of deep dives in exotic places, they now swim in their 40 ft pool.
After retirement in 1999, they explored other interesting activities like geocaching, bonsai, jewelry making, astronomy, watercolor and recently joined Omnilore: a lifelong learning study-discussion group. They both continue the custom framing and image restoration business started in their early scuba diving days.
By looking at the two of them, one would never guess that they were in their 80’s! Both very agile and fit with lots of energy. They have a two-story home and use their stairs more than 15 times a day.
They know this is great exercise, but if one of them ever twisted their ankle, they admit how immobility could become a sudden reality. Life can be wonderful when you are in good health, but we also see how fragile it can be when we get older. As many seniors do, Ronnie and Carlos visited senior living places and decided to stay in their home. They entertained the idea of having a residential elevator installed. They realized this could also be helpful to them now whenever they wanted to move heavy boxes or equipment up or down the stairs.
That’s when they were referred to Gamburd Inc. A consultant came to their house and offered some solutions and possible locations for a residential lift. Carlos was impressed by the many pictures of previous work done by Gamburd.
He saw that they took serious care and reinforced the structure of the house when making the opening between the floors.
The elevators are available in four sizes with one big enough to carry a wheel chair and a second person if needed. They placed the order and when the construction began, the workers were extremely careful in preparing the rooms for their work. They isolated the rooms with large plastic walls to prevent dust from getting all over, so Carlos and Ronnie could use the rest of the house. They felt that the Gamburd staff were enjoyable to have in their home because they worked well with one another, did what was promised and finished the work on time.
If Carlos were to share words of wisdom with others it would be this: “Don’t wait until something goes wrong before planning to make your home safe and accessible. The lift is a useful addition to the enjoyment of the house activities at the present time.” We never know when a physical challenge might arise, so it’s best to plan before mobility diminishes and we are spending money on health issues.
Perhaps it is because of their years of experience as scuba divers, or their medical training and instinct to always think ahead, I am not sure. But I do know this: they aren’t waiting to be sick or injured before making their home safe through all the ages and stages of life.