'It really is a good time of your life'

Barb Sweet
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Seniors find second careers after retirement

It's the busy summer home-improvement season at Kent in Mount Pearl and green-shirted employees Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are smiling as they take it all in stride.

Working in the store is their second entry into the job market. And without mortgages to pay and families to raise, they're simply loving the work.

Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are happily employed at Kent after retiring from earlier careers. They missed being around the public. Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

It's the busy summer home-improvement season at Kent in Mount Pearl and green-shirted employees Paul Tobin and Ruth Foster are smiling as they take it all in stride.

Working in the store is their second entry into the job market. And without mortgages to pay and families to raise, they're simply loving the work.

Both are retirees - Tobin taught for three decades at Gonzaga High School in St. John's and Foster, a one-time nursing assistant at the Waterford Hospital until staying home with her son for several years, went on to retire as deli manager after a 20-year career at Dominion.

They list several greying colleagues who re-entered the workforce after careers in teaching, policing, military and prison security.

"I just missed the people. Everybody has to eat, so you see so many people go through the supermarket. Then all of a sudden you see nobody," Foster explained.

She lasted eight months in retirement before applying to Kent on a whim and didn't care whether she got a call or not.

When she came home from the interview, her husband asked her how it went.

"Well, I start Monday," she told him.

That was six years ago.

"I never worked in this atmosphere before - this lumber and building supplies. But you just see so many people you knew from your other jobs and it's just really enjoyable. It was only going to be a couple months, just to try it. I didn't think I would stay," said Foster, who lives in Mount Pearl.

Both say their spouses - Tobin's wife Dianne and Foster's husband, John, knew they needed to be out dealing with the public

Foster works part-time and Tobin, full time.

Tobin, a St. John's east-ender, decided to retire from teaching to give younger people a shot - getting a permanent job right after graduation is unheard of now, he said.

"I had 30 fabulous years. I started with a smile on my face and I left with a smile on my face," he said.

He retired in June seven years ago and went to work at Kent that September.

"I looked at it, and to go from what I was doing - teaching, say, 200-250 kids a day - to nothing just wasn't an option. To me, I needed to do something to have that social contact," Tobin said.

Both say the camaraderie at the store is fantastic and the company is understanding of their schedules or when they have family emergencies.

Tobin, who taught science, works in the paint department and is thrilled when he gets someone to train in because it brings back the teacher in him.

Foster is a floater - working all over the store.

She said the job keeps her young.

"It's just a way of thinking - you don't feel 60," she said.

"You don't look a day over 45," Tobin tells her, nodding in agreement.

They both say there is satisfaction in working when the financial pressures of life are dealt with. The extra money funds travel and visits with family.

"It really is a good time of your life," Tobin said.

"Now we are in position, if someone was giving us a really hard time - which I don't think will ever happen here - or you just got fed up with it, you can just walk away from it," Foster said.

But she pointed out not all seniors have the luxury of working just because they want to.

"There are two sides of seniors working," she said.

"You hear a lot of talk of some seniors - especially if their pensions weren't indexed or anything - who are working to survive. There are seniors after working that are not even well enough to work. But what choice do they have?"

"Thank God we are not caught in that dilemma," added Tobin.

Stew Valcour, general manager of Kent Building Supplies, said his operation is getting more and more ex-military, ex-Bell Aliant and ex-teaching professionals.

"They are all pretty young and active, even though for whatever reason they have chosen to retire," Valcour said in a phone interview.

"Sitting at home and playing golf is not what they want to do. It's great for them, hopefully, and it's great for us."

Valcour said the retirees have worked on their own homes over their lives, doing repairs and projects. They enjoy sharing that knowledge with younger homeowners.

He also said the retirees are great mentors for younger employees. And the retirees are flexible in the hours they will work.

"Not everyone wants the weekend off or every evening off," he said.

He agreed Kent tries to work around their schedules. For example, he noted a Truro, N.S., employee who goes to Florida every winter and works the summers at Kent, which has its busiest season from April to November.

As for the retirees' work ethic, Valcour describes it as "tremendous, tremendous."

They also tend to be in pretty good shape as they accumulate a lot of kilometres traversing the store every day, Valcour noted.

"They do a great job for us," says Mount Pearl manager Lisa Anderson of the retirees she employs. They come with the added bonus of career and life experience to draw from.

"They are here because they want to be here. And they have so many great abilities," she said.

Retail isn't the only option for seniors.

Mask Security Inc. employs several people who are retired, says operations manager Lawrence Howse.

"They come in and tell me they are retired, have been out of work for awhile and want something to do," Howse said of the older employees.

"They enjoy being out and talking to the public."

Older workers, he said, have something to offer employers - maturity, reliability and a strong work ethic.

Howse said he would employ workers 19 to 90 - age isn't a factor.

Some of the older workers are doing it to pass the time. Others want extra income, or even tuck their pay away for vacation money.

At Mask, they do security work, or flagging for construction sites.

They come from former careers as city workers, retired teachers, government employees, "all walks of life," said Howse.


Organizations: Kent Building Supplies, Gonzaga High School, Waterford Hospital Dominion Bell Aliant Security

Geographic location: Mount Pearl, St. John's, Truro Florida

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Recent comments

  • Gonzaga Grad
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    I can't get over the negativity and cynics that are in this thread. I mean REALLY?

    It is a story of how two people who retired decided not to sit on their laurels and to still serve the public. Who cares what company it's for or why they're doing it. It is just ment as a feel good story and it's pretty sh*tty that people can't just take it that way....

    Good for you Mr. Tobin. Keep up the good work.

  • Tom
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    Dil do donny, contrary to what you believe, most useful people that aren't lazy need something to occupy their time. There's only so many trips to the cabin you can take. Look, the calendar says it's July. Got your stamps yet?

  • Old Man Winter
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    I had Paul Tobin as well in high school. He was a great teacher and very kind individual. Also, they aren't taking jobs from anyone. The job bank alone is full of jobs; anyone who is unable to obtain one either isn't trying or have ruined their chances through crime. Either way, stop complaining about people being happy.

  • Isedabye
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    THE only reason Kents and their ilk HAVE to employ so many retirees is the meager wages they pay...while raking in profits that are exorbinant...having to wait approximately 14-15 months before any benefits are available...their biggest competitor pays SEVERAL dollars more an hour and still make major profits...the Irving(Kents owner)motto is the golden rule...the one that says those that have the gold rule...nothing wrong with profits but when its accumulated like Kents are doing on the backs of people that give them a good days work then...ahhh...doesnt matter...newfies will never learn to stand up for themselves anyway.

  • Jeff
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    KB wrote I hope they arent taking jobs away from people who really need them.
    Anyone who really wants to work shouldn't have trouble finding a job. I see help wanted signs everywhere. I'd rather get help from one of these folks rather than the 16 year old who stares at you with a blank look when you ask them something, duh .

  • TJ
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    i work at a place that employes thousands, i have interview a few people myself, and it seems the younger generation just does not want to work. They want mommy and daddy to pay for everything. The younger generatation that does get hired are usually lazy as a cut cat, do SFA and usually quit within months. By the way i'm 28, and alot of the people who i went to school with are still jammin the dog doing nothing living at home

  • Blondie
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    KB, who cares if they had careers previously! Obviously, there was something about these ppl that warranted job offers at Kent! Many of the ppl who are still looking for a job, probably do not have the same work ethic, attitudes OR demeanor! Just look at their faces... these are happy ppl, enjoying all that life has to offer!

    Good luck to these semi-retirees! BRAVO! Hard work has brought you many blessings... all of which have been well-deserved.

  • W
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I only know one person who works for fun, Danny Williams, everyone else, works for money to maintain a lifestyle, let's face the non-indexed pensions make them have to work.

  • Blondie
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02


    God forbid that certain people want to live their best life ... these are happy people. Be happy for them!

    The best ppl get the jobs! That means, people who are positive, team players, hard workers, and grateful for all that they have been given in life. What goes around comes around! They deserve every joy this 2nd job has provided!

    You are simply a SAD person. To each his own, right?

  • Gerard
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Paul Tobin, retired-teacher, Gonzaga High School, always had respect for that man! Great teacher, great human being, a feel good story for sure! For those who had the opportunity to be taught by him, we are the lucky ones!

  • NO, I Really
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Man, I can't wait to retire so I can go back to work for min wage.

  • Justin
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Donny....spoken like a true 'lazy newfoundlander'! At least these people are doing something productive with their time. Kudos to them and a big brick to you....the useless one!

  • Johnny
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I've seen a lot of puff pieces published in The Telegram over the years, but this takes the cake.

    Kent - owned by the Irvings - an accommodating employer? Do I really have to remind the readers of their history of labour relations in Atlantic Canada? This tripe almost seems like a public relations exercise pushed out by their Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda.

    As for the two employees at the centre of the article, it's great to see them topping up their pensions with service industry jobs after retirement. Not that the money is needed though right? I can only assume that all opportunities for volunteerism in St. John's must be filled.

    Having worked at Kent for a (thankfully) short period of time, I can tell you that the 'double-dippers' were despised by their fellow employees for usurping jobs from others who were in more financially dire straits than them. I hope they think about that on Monday when they're looking around the lunchroom.


  • AJ
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I have dealt with the older working population while shopping in these hardware stores and they are a wealth of information and knowledge. Very Helpful!

  • Whaddaya At ?
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Kent, like many other employers, will hire people who are dependable, punctual and hard working. It doesn't matter to them if you're 18 or 68. They're not interested in hiring an 18 year old with an attitude who doesn't give a $hit about anything and acts as if the world owes him/her a living.

  • cstarz
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    What a great story!!! Also, as a customer at Kent in Mount Pearl - I can vouch that Paul is the friendliest and most knowledgeable person in the paint department! I had countless trips back and forth last year when painting my house - he always remembered me and helped me through!

  • Donny
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I don't believe it. Nobody goes to work because they 'miss the people'. If you had to invest a little wiser in your pension and RRSP you wouldn't have to look after a clean-up in isle 3! Cut the nonsense.

  • KB
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    I hope they arent taking jobs away from people who really need them. They have both had careers allready. I am sure there is someone out there who could use the jobs these two have taken away from them.

  • No
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Great Story! So nice to hear as well that Kent is such an accomodating employer, flexibility is such am important part of any person's life. It's too bad that large corporations can't learn from Kent, some people can't even get time off to go to a doctor's appt. Looks good on you Kent!! Even knowing this makes me want to drive further and purchase from you rather than your competitiors.

  • Razor
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    KB from NL writes: I hope they arent taking jobs away from people who really need them.

    Yeah KB how about a job for the hippies that hang out on Water Street all day bumming change.

  • Anonymous
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    If he's so interested in helping young people, than why is he taking exactly the type of job that many young people tend to rely on just to survive? Look at these backrounds; Retired teachers, police, military, etc. All jobs that allow for early retirement and come with fat public sector pensions and benefits. Now at 55 they realize they're not ready to be put out to pasture, so they take these jobs even though they admittedly dont need them. Problem is that a young person trying to get started in the workforce simply cant compete for employment with someone with this kind of experience. So while the Paul Tobins of the world are using their shelf-stocking check to pay for another night out at a fancy restaurant, or planning another trip to Florida, there's a young person out there who cant pay their bills because they got passed over for the job that the retired teacher never needed in the first place.

  • Esron
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    They use tests to evaluate mental competency there, however, they are very flawed. Case in point:

    Do you believe everyone has stolen at least once in their lives?
    [Yes] [No]

    Have you ever stolen anything in your life?
    [Yes] [No]

    Now, there are 4 combinations.
    1. Yes Yes - You are a risk because you stole, bad outlook on people.

    2. Yes No - Everyone steals...Except me... You lie!

    3. No Yes - No one steals, but you do.

    4. No No - You are absolutely wakko, and see the world thru rose coloured glasses.

    Regardless, you are screwed.

  • Steve
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    The last time I checked we are all living in a - free country. These people had to apply for these jobs just like everybody else. If they have qualifications for the job then they deserve it. To all of the nay sayers out there - get a life - jealousy will get you no where!