Lew Yarbrough is retired now, but for nearly 40 years, he was an employee of Puget Sound Power & Light Co.—now Puget Sound Energy.
He graduated from Clemson University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948 after three years with the U.S. Navy. He also served 17 years in the Navy Reserve.
He and wife Aino, who’s better known as Trudie, have two grown children—son Robin of Portland and daughter Stacy Bertolin of Olympia. They also have a granddaughter, Dana Yarbrough of Aloha, Ore.
While with Puget Power, he says, he served in various engineering ,construction and management assignments throughout western Washington. Throughout his career, he adds, he was active in civic and service organizations every in every community in which he served during his career. He was the director of Puget Power’s Southern Division and living in Olympia when he retired in May 1986. In today’s Q&A, he discusses life after the last day of work.
Q: Compare post-retirement with your years on the job.
A: I enjoyed working and I enjoy retirement. Both have their rewards. A successful working life prepared and financed my retired life. But I favor the retired life—I’m able to choose what I do and where I live.
Q: Are there any common misconceptions people have about retirement that you would like to debunk?
A: One misconception is that no one wants to hire older people. Another is, “I’ll play golf—or fish or play cards—every day. Another one is that there’s nothing to do. There are small companies willing to hire older employees. Even your favorite pastimes quickly become boring if that’s all you’ve got to do. And there’s plenty to do; just look around at all the opportunities.
Q: Do you think most people your age planned adequately for their retirement years?
A: Financial planning? No, only about half planned well.
Q: Do you know anyone who has been forced to continue working, at least part-time?
A: Yes, I know people who must work at least part-time to keep their heads above water.
Q: Before you retired, did you have a plan as to what you would do?
A: I had planned to volunteer and travel—but without a rigid time schedule. I have generally followed my plans.I worked as a volunteer consultant for six years for the Thurston County Economic Development Council. Later I formed The Consulting Group Inc. with several others.
Q: What are some of the activities you’ve engaged in since retiring?
A: I have continued participating in many of the same organizations I was active in while employed. My present activities include the South Puget Sound Community College Foundation Board; the Community Foundation Board for Thurston, Lewis and Mason counties; the Kiwanis Club; U.S. Navy League; the Olympia Thurston County Visitors Convention Bureau; the Olympia World Affairs Council; the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association; the Olympia-Thurston County Chamber of Commerce; the Lacey Chamber of Commerce; Olympia First United Methodist Church; the YMCA; and the Puget Sound Energy Retirees Association.
I’m also a past president of the Tumwater Area Boy Scouts Council. For 30 years I was a Boy Scouts volunteer. I also served on the Board of Directors at First Community Bank. I retired in 1995 after 15-plus years. I still support that bank.
Q: Which of these activities do you enjoy most?
A: I get the most personal satisfaction from serving on The Foundations Boards, the Kiwanis Club, the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association and church. I have the most fun in activities of the Navy League, the Chambers of Commerce World Affairs Council and the VCB.
Q: Tell us a little about the Olympia-Yashiro Sister City Association and how folks can become involved.
A: The sister city relationship began in 1980. We will celebrate 20 years in 2000. Its purpose is to promote World Peace, love, friendship and understanding through education, cultural and commercial exchanges. We also have adult and high school student exchanges. We built a Japanese garden next to the Olympia City Hall. To get involved, call me at (360) 943-7491.
Q: What kinds of Olympia-Thurston Chamber activities might some retirees find interesting?
A: Clerical support, Foofaraw or Military Appreciation Day, soliciting items for the annual auction and helping out at the auction, the annual trade show and serving as advisors during Business Week .
Q: Are there any other local groups you’d recommend people for who are about to retire?
A: Retirees should consider the Kiwanis Clubs, Senior Services,the Rotary Club and Lions. In addition, public schools are looking for volunteer lunch buddies and reading buddies. Retirees can serve as VCB volunteers and help at job fairs—and for older adults, there’s the Agency on Aging.
Q: Does your wife work—and what hobbies does she have?
A: She’s a regular golfer during the week. She’s also a retired teacher, so she belongs to the Retired Teachers Association. She’s active in our church, too, although in a different area than mine. During the legislative session she’s a paid employee. She conducts tours.
Q: Do you golf, too?
A: Once in awhile. We golf together once in awhile, and we play separately.
Q: Do you work at all for money anymore?
A: Every now and then I work for money. I’m the president of a consulting group. It’s called The Consulting Group Inc. It’s to help small businesses become profitable.
Q: How many places have you lived and how did you choose Olympia for retirement?
A: We’ve lived in lots of places in Washington- Bellingham, Whidbey Island, Seattle, Mount Vernon, Bellevue and Olympia. The job required you to move.
When we first moved here from Bellevue my wife wasn’t convinced this was where she wanted to live. She thought it was the end of the world. Now she wouldn’t move back for a million bucks.
Here you have as much sophistication as a big city, yet it’s small. It’s kind of nice. Here you get to know a lot of people without having to be the president of Boeing. Here they’re just your neighbors.
Q: Is there anything you wish somebody had told you before you retired?
A: My biggest regret in my career is that I made too many sacrifices for my employer and my job. Blind company loyalty is foolish. In the final analysis, family is more important than employee loyalty, dedication and sacrifice.