The New Retirement in the 21st Century

December 2021
Written By: 
Charles T. Glazer
Photographs by: 
Scott Smallin

The rocking chair has gone rock ‘n roll!

Traditionally, retirement from full-time work life meant taking it easy—resting from a lifetime of hard work in a rocking chair on the porch, maybe going fishing, playing golf, taking an occasional cruise or trip to Europe and enjoying visits from grandchildren. And unfortunately, too many people in the previous generation were not healthy and vibrant in their later years. Many had fairly brief “retirements.”

Well, like with every other aspect of life, the Baby Boomer generation has completely redefined retirement. This generation has gotten its second wind in retirement and is doing anything but sitting on the porch rocking. This generation is rocking and rolling!

Rich & Heather Johnson (pictured above)

Rich Johnson retired in 2012. He had a successful 25-year career as host of “The Fishing Line,” a talk show he did on both television and radio. Today he is busier than ever, performing as the Rich Johnson Band, a solo guitar act, a duet, a trio and a four-piece band. He often performs four or five times a week at various Grand Strand venues to the delight of audiences and business owners alike. Additionally, he organizes, markets and manages one of the nation’s largest guitar industry tradeshows every year with hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees. His wife, Heather, is equally busy after a successful career as a teacher in New York. She tutors students who have special learning needs, does volunteer work at Brookgreen Gardens and, in her “spare” time, is an avid oil paint artist.

Tom & Gloria Hendrickson

Tom Hendrickson and his wife, Gloria, retired in 2014 from long and successful careers as government contractors. They even spent several years working in Bermuda—Gloria in the civilian personnel office of U.S. Navy Systems and Tom as a NASA satellite systems contractor. When they retired and moved to Conway, Tom immediately set up an extensive wood shop in an outbuilding on his property.

“When we decided to retire and move to this area, we were drawn to Conway because it gave me the space I needed to build my woodworking shop. It’s a terrific community,” says Tom.

His retirement days are filled with projects such as building fine furniture from scratch, repairing furniture and other wood items, and fashioning every type of wooden item imaginable from cutting boards and picture frames to bird houses and storage boxes. Over the past two years, Tom also served as president of the Penn State Alumni Club of Myrtle Beach, leading this 200-member organization in its year-round activities and supporting local charities. Tom and Gloria also travel extensively and visit family often.

Dennis & Dale McClelland

Dennis and Dale McClelland are another couple that are “sort of” retired.

“I don’t think of myself as truly retired—it’s more like this is another phase in my lifelong career. I’ve always enjoyed planning and executing large special events, so arranging travel is a natural for me, and Dennis and I get to see the world!” Dale says.

Dale had a successful career running a few different businesses, all related to special event planning. These included bus tours, dinner theatre, entertainment shows and banquets. Dennis parlayed an early career in real estate to become the CEO of the Realtors Association of Metropolitan Pittsburgh and later, the Missouri Association of Realtors.

They have leveraged their vast experience and network of people and now have a vibrant travel agency business.

The McClellands specialize in cruises and have conducted numerous trips since they retired.

A specialty of theirs is conducting seminars and meetings at sea for businesses and/or hobbies. Their cruises go to far-flung areas of the globe, including Europe and the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, Alaska, New England, Canada and Hawaii.

They are also active in visiting their three children and seven grandchildren.

Joe Palminteri

Joe Palminteri grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, New York and started singing street corner doo-wop at age 11 with his school buddies. After finishing school, he served in the Marines, then enjoyed a wonderful career with the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, retiring in 1998 and relocating to the Grand Strand in 2000. Now, he is reliving his boyhood passion, singing at venues all over the area with three other guys as Forever Doowop. In his spare time, he also tinkers with motorcycles, drives a hotel shuttle bus and cares for his two dogs. Boston’s Ed Wiles Sr. retired from his family’s funeral business and moved to the Grand Strand in 2013, joining Forever Doowop in 2015. In addition to the singing gigs, he still works part time as a funeral director. Bruce Berger is from New York City and Iggy Cossentino (you knew there had to be someone named Iggy in this group) also from Brooklyn, round out the quartet. Bruce began singing at age 12 and joined the Army after high school, doing a tour of duty in Vietnam. He had a successful career as a respiratory therapist and today enjoys making furniture from wooden pallets when he’s not singing bass for the group. Iggy has been a musician his entire life and was with major recording artists, including the Impalas (“Sorry, I Ran All the Way Home”), the Tip Tops (“Rama Lama”) and Vito & the Salutations (“Unchained Melody”). He still plays guitar, but no longer tours, preferring to sing with Forever Doowop locally and enjoying leisure travel.

Dr. Leo & Dr. Maureen Bidula

Since Myrtle Beach is dubbed the “Golf Capital of the World,” you would expect many retirees to golf often–and they do. But golf is just the tip of the iceberg. This new generation of retirees has several hobbies that contribute to staying physically fit, including trips to the gym, yoga, tai chi, tennis, kayaking, paddle boarding, nature hikes, photography and bird watching, jogging, bicycling, walks on the beach, surf fishing, pickle ball and more.

We also found child sitters, dog sitters, photographers, artists, and people teaching and consulting in the career fields they once worked full time.

And, as you would expect, numerous couples and individuals are immersed in the shag dance culture found in clubs and taverns all along the Grand Strand.

Many also do volunteer work to help the community in fields where they worked full time. Drs. Leo and Maureen Bidula split their time between their Grand Strand beach home and their home in western Pennsylvania. Maureen worked as a radiologist and Leo was a rheumatologist.

Between the two of them, they now volunteer at a medical clinic, are active members of their HOA board, serve on the board of an orphanage and serve at a non-profit that collects and redistributes furniture and home goods to those in need.

“Our volunteer work is very rewarding. We were quite blessed in our careers, so it is satisfying to be able to give back to the community and have impacts that positively enhance peoples’ lives,” Leo adds.

Like other retirees, they travel extensively and enjoy all the activities the Grand Strand has to offer, including music, dining, kayaking and golfing.

Ted & Judy Sweitzer

Do you need a notary public? A licensed minister to perform a wedding? A substitute teacher? Then call on Ted and Judy Sweitzer of Pawleys Island. This couple retired here in 1998 after vacationing on Pawleys Island for more than 15 years and have never stopped being active. Ted once served as a Medic and Preventive Medicine Specialist in the U.S. Army and the couple lived in Germany while Ted served there. The remainder of his career was spent as a medical social worker in acute care, home care and skilled care/assisted living. Judy was in the dental/medical field, as well as a high school reading and English aide. She also spent several years working in customer service management. Today, she serves as a substitute teacher and does volunteer work at their church, which includes nine medical/dental mission trips to Guatemala. Ted is a notary in South Carolina and a wedding minister, and volunteers at Smith Medical Clinic in Pawleys Island. Like many others, they travel a lot and enjoy family time, kayaking, hiking and vacationing in Key West.

Mark & Debbie Johnson

Another couple who do a great deal of volunteer work are Mark and Debbie Johnson. Mark retired in 2016 from a career in teaching and school administration. Debbie retired in 2018 from a career in early childhood education as a behavior specialist. They golf regularly and play pickle ball twice a week, while managing the pickle ball league at their church. Mark volunteers at Community Kitchen in Myrtle Beach, feeding those in need.

“Mark and I really enjoy overseeing the pickle ball program at Surfside United Methodist Church. It helps keep us healthy and fit, and gives us the opportunity to meet lots of people and make new friends,” Debbie says.

They both serve monthly lunches to the community at Shepherd of the Sea church in Garden City, and volunteer for various church activities at Surfside United Methodist Church.

Both are active in their college alumni club, with Mark serving as treasurer and Debbie as membership chair.

Additionally, Mark is a driver for Neighbor 2 Neighbor, teaches a Sunday school class and serves on his neighborhood HOA board.

These couples are not all that unique.

In fact, they represent millions in the Boomer generation who are redefining what it means to be retired and are enjoying life to the fullest. So be careful the next time you use the term “old fogey,” because the person may just be able to run you off the jogging track, paddle circles around you in the water or party all night long!