THE WISDOM PEOPLE

“MISS NOT THE DISCOURSE OF THE ELDERS”

-The Apocrypha 8:9

 In times of crisis, sometimes there is comfort in the words of those who have gone before…..

Several years ago, I did a photo/oral history on aging which I called THE GATHERING OF THE WISDOM PEOPLE. The  people I interviewed were in their late 80s or 90s and I tried to include elders from different cultures and walks of life. These people had lived through World Wars, the Great Depression and most of them had survived very hard times, both physically and emotionally …so they were not selfish or self centered.CALVIN:ME

They were funny, inspiring and wise and because they didn’t have much future, they seemed to take life less seriously and have a great sense of humor.. I found this to be true sometimes with terminally patients.

The Wisdom People website has not been updated in a while but you can check it out. In the meantime, I’ll  share some photos and quotes: their humor and then some of their wisdom… *their ages listed are the age they were at the time I interviewed them

                                                REGINALD HARLING
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REGINALD HARLING, age 96*  Born: 1901 London, England  Occupation: Professor of Physics/Mathematics

“Why have I lived so long? Keeping out of bed as much as possible. Bed  is a very DANGEROUS place; more people die in bed than anywhere else.

And keeping away from doctors (most of my friends who died were involved with doctors in one way or another),”

 ALVIN IVY
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ALVIN IVY age 95*  Born: 1901  Vanderpool, Texas  Occupation: Cowboy/Rancher

  What was life like out here when you were little?

 “Pretty rough. You talk about country-this was country. There was no cars, no paved roads-all dirt roads-and if you went anywhere, you had to go by horseback or buggy.alvin9 The nearest doctor was Utopia and the first doctor I remember was afraid of the dark. He wouldn’t go anywhere at night by hisself. He also said it was no use to get in a hurry going to see a sick person. If they was going to die, they’d die anyway

                                                       ROSITA HOLLER
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ROSITA HOLLER  age 99* Born: 1899  Piedras Negras, Mexico  Occupation: teacher

                                                    When did you retire?

                                                     “I never retired.”

JAMES E PITTMAN, MD
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JAMES E. PITTMAN, M.D. age 92*  Born: 1904 Prairie Grove, Arkansas Occupation: Physician/Surgeon Former Chief of Staff and Head of the Department of Surgery Hermann Hospital, Houston, Texas

“The most I ever charged when I was in private practice was five hundred dollars. Five hundred dollars and that’s a fact. You can’t even get in the hospital now for that. And that would be the care before, during and after surgery, see.”

                                                                                                                       MARY TREJO
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MARY TREJO age 92* Born: 1905  Kendalia, Texas  Occupation: Homemaker

“If there’s a lot of love, then you always make things go.  Now these modern young people, they don’t go like that. That’s an old fashioned idea that we used to live.”

                                                         MARY CANADY
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MARY CANADY, age 99* Born: 1898  Lockhart, Texas   Occupation: Cook for the Men’s Faculty Club The University of Texas at Austin

I’ve always helped people. I haven’t ever just sat down for myself. I’ve helped somebody – like last night. I couldn’t go to sleep until I went over to see one of the sick people on another hall. I go to see her every day. Go on and do something for somebody besides yourself. It’s bad to live just for yourself.”

Do you worry about dying?

“No, I don’t worry about dying. I just try to be good to people like I’d like them to be good to me. I love people. It doesn’t matter to me what color or who it is.”

                                                           ALVIN IVY

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alvin8 copyYou’ve seen the world change a lot and not for the better?

“No, it’s getting worse every day.”

Tell me what you see.

“Greed – greed’s what’s wrong with our government today. You take those people up there in Washington-congressmen, senators and the president. They done forgot the Constitution. The Constitution said “a government by the people, for the people…equal rights to all and special privilege to none.” You think them people up there…? Something’s got to give one of these days. If we have another depression now, it’s going to be a lot worse than that other one. I lived through that other one. I know what it was. Once in a while you hear them talking about the cost of living’s gone down two-tenths of one percent, but it just don’t happen – up, up, up all the time. I don’t know how our government can figure they’re doing anything right.”

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The following story made a huge impression on me. We always feel somehow that we’re safe and  that these things happen to other people, not to us. I’ve worked a lot with Native People and I have heard first hand what happened to them: torture, poisoning, rounded up and put on reservations, forbidden to speak their language or participate in their ceremonies- ….IT CAN HAPPEN – HERE AND EVERYWHERE…

ROSE HANAUER
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ROSE HANAUER age 89* Born: 1908  Berlin, Germany Occupation: Dressmaker

I was born in Berlin,Germany, the youngest of three children. I had two older brothers.rose2 DONKEY

rose1 BABY

After graduating from High School I went into dressmaking, learning design, making patterns etc. My father was a pharmacist, he owned a pharmacy in the middle of Berlin. I married pretty young and my father died one year after my marriage.

By that time Hitler had already a lot of power in Germany, the political situation was very bad and the danger that the Communists would take over Germany was great. The Germans figured that Hitler would be the smaller of two evils, so they supported him strongly! Besides Hitler gave jobs to jobless people (of course all in preparation for a war that would conquer the whole world!)

When my father died my older brother, whom I loved dearly, was studying in Vienna, Austria to become a Chemist, but he had to come home to take care of the pharmacy. By that time there were already restrictions for Jews to work so we had to hire a non-Jewish Pharmacist and my brother worked in the pharmacy for a while until that became impossible too!

My husband was a pharmacist too. He worked for another pharmacy in Berlin, but the political situation was already pretty bad!

My husband and I decided to do anything to get out of Germany, but it was already too late to be able to get out, Hitler had taken over Germany and made it nearly impossible for Jews to work or get out alive.

My mother-in-law had taken a job as a maid in a private household in London, England. She figured she would be able to get her children out of Germany and she really did succeed. She became very friendly with her employers and they sponsored her and her daughter and us so that we got a permit to go to London.rose_eng

My brother, at that time-the year was 1938- still thought Hitler would not be in power very long, one should wait!

My husband and I left Germany as soon as we received our permit to get into England We left Germany Aug. 11, 1939 which was less than three weeks before England declared war against Germany! Of course we had to leave everything of value behind!rose7_mo

We would have loved to apply for my mother to get out of Germany too, but she did not want to leave as long as my brother and his wife and two small children were still in Germany.  The day before we left for England, my brother said to me, “I guess you were the smarter one, it looks pretty bad now”rose9fam

Two years after living in England I heard through the Red Cross that my mother was picked up by the Nazis sometime after my brother and his family were taken to Concentration Camps. My mother herself had written a few lines with the Red Cross letter. By the time I got this letter they must have been dead already.

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The Gathering of the Wisdom People exhibit traveled to several places in Texas, to Maine and to Michigan. After that I donated it to The Austin Groups for the Elderly in Austin, Texas. It got lots of publicity and was featured on the front page of The Houston Chronicle.

Two of our award winning documentaries on aging are:

DRIVING TO UTOPIAELAINA_UTOPIA

A rich and precious story of 3 older women and their journeys with loss, isolation and discovery. A moving video for professionals, women who are bereaved and anyone interested in understanding the importance of staying young at heart..This captivating video takes viewers into the lives of three inspirational women who have each found peace in growing older. Despite the limitations and challenges brought on by aging and the loss of a spouse, they have persevered and found contentment and joy in their later years.

“Driving to Utopia offers an engaging and thoughtful window in the lives of three widowed women who have said ‘yes’ to life. They draw from the wellsprings of lives filled with faith and joy, compassion and humor. As well as being stewards to the memories of their husbands, they are keepers of dreams yet to be fulfilled. This a valued addition to our library.”

J.Chandler Newton
Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator
Optima VNA Hospice
Manchester, NH

Award: Merit Award – Mature Media National Awards 1995 Buy Now Button

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and

Bringing the Circle TogetherCIRCLE1

~ an uplifting and enlightening documentary on aging, wisdom and the circle of life ~

Award: Merit Award
Mature Media National Awards 1999

“an inter-generational video with a message for everyone about life and its seasons”

Wisdom, humor and life experience spanning almost a century – these are the legacies offered by four unforgettable men in their nineties, the stars of Bringing the Circle Together.

A retired surgeon, cowboy, road builder, and professor, they remind us that life is a circle in which we are all interconnected and in some way responsible for the care of each other.

Woven throughout are the comments of three young men in their twenties and the insights of Dannion Brinkley, near death survivor and author of the New York Times bestseller Saved By the Light.Buy Now Button