I‘m busier now than I‘ve ever been. Many—or most—of us will agree that the statement accurately describes retirement. It is certainly true of Barbara Goldthwaite.
Skilled in many areas, Barbara is a master of scheduling her time to accommodate her many activities. Exercise classes at the Senior Center have a high priority on the schedule there, where Barbara serves on the board of directors. Also high on her list of volunteer work is involvement in the First Presbyterian Church here in Oshkosh, where she currently serves as the treasurer of the investment fund.
Barbara belongs to a writing group of five LIR members who first met each other in the “Writing Your Life Story” class. They continue to meet, though the class is no longer offered, sharing fiction, essays, biography, and other writing, and sharing friendship and support. Equally, long-lasting is the group that formed through her and Dan‘s work in Marriage Encounter; they have all known each other for more than 20 years and meet monthly to share informal Bible study and friendship. A book club is also on the list of monthly meetings for Barbara.
And, of course, there is LIR. Barbara has been a member since 1998 and has served as treasurer for two terms and a member of the finance committee for several more years. Hers is a familiar face at many classes as she takes advantage of the great variety of subjects offered. Travel, too, is a favorite activity, offering the chance for further learning as well as for leisure. Barbara admits to a special delight in September vacations after years of being tied to the academic calendar.
Sometimes fate intervenes to overturn our most careful planning. That happened to Barbara when she graduated from Pennsylvania State University in the midterm in 1955. With a degree in secondary education, Barbara was ready to begin the teaching career she had dreamed of as she was growing up in the small mining town of Mt. Carmel, PA. To her dismay, she found only one position open at that time of year: junior high math in the small town of Warren, PA.
The school had a number of unmarried young teachers who lived in rooming houses and got together for dinner at one of the town‘s few restaurants. Among them was a science teacher, Dan Goldthwaite, and soon he and Barbara became a dinner twosome as they shared their love of theater, opera, and music. By the end of the school year, they were planning their August wedding.
But this was the 1950s and some archaic rules applied: husbands and wives were not allowed to teach in the same school. The official reason given was the fear that a couple would vote the same and thus have too much power in faculty issues. Barbara wryly notes that two votes out of fifty could hardly be construed as a power bloc, and, furthermore, she and Dan usually voted on opposite sides of issues. In any case, the threat of resignation led to both contracts being renewed because in pre-Sputnik days, math and science slots were difficult to fill. Barbara continued teaching for five years, resigning before daughter Ann, was born (at that time, pregnancy was also a reason for dismissal).
In 1961 Barbara and Dan moved to Edinboro, Pa where he had taken a position at the state college. After three years, he recognized the need for a Ph.D. if he wanted to continue college teaching, so in 1964 they were once again on the move, this time to Columbus, Ohio, settling in at married student housing in Buckeye Village. Daughter Ruth was born there.
For the first few years after the Goldthwaites moved to Oshkosh in 1968, Barbara was a stay-at-home mom. When both daughters were in school, she began a second career as a part-time teacher at the First Presbyterian Preschool, eventually becoming a headteacher. Barbara speaks fondly of the many tykes she has taught over the years, recalling how they would often greet her with a hug when they met her outside of class (and Dan wryly commented that his college students were not nearly as warm when they ran into him outside the classroom).
A note of motherly pride creeps into Barbara‘s voice when she talks about family. Ann works in Oshkosh as the Regional Copy Desk Chief for Gannet newspapers. Ruth, a lawyer, made a major career change to the ministry and now works as a chaplain at St. Alphonsus Hospital in Boise, Idaho. Although she would love to have Ruth closer to home, Barbara has added Boise to her travel itinerary.
There is a third member of the family: Markus, a young German doctor who joined the Goldthwaites as an AFS student when Ruth was in high school. Apprehension about a young man joining a family of teenage girls was soon put rest; Markus fit seamlessly into the family as a son and brother. In the Goldthwaite tradition of forming fast and long-lasting friendships, close ties with Markus and his family meant trips to Germany. Much to the delight of all, Markus and his wife now live in Milwaukee, so they get to visit often. Daughter Ruth‘s year as an exchange student in Switzerland offered an excellent reason to visit that country. Even after visiting Greece, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, France, Spain and Germany, Switzerland remains Barbara‘s favorite country.
Amid all her other interests, LIR holds a special place in Barbara‘s life. The wide variety of options is a perfect fit for this multitalented girl from the mining town in Pennsylvania. She welcomed how local and college productions opened the world of theater to her when she was growing up. A favorite memory is a production of Macbeth she saw when in high school; it thrilled her and made her a life-long fan of Shakespeare. A college roommate introduced her to opera, a love she and Dan shared, attending the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee for many years. Barbara takes full advantage of the tours to theater and music performances offered by LIR, especially welcome since Dan died. “There is no need to worry about going solo,” she reports, “There will always be friends on the trip.”
Barbara‘s busy schedule reflects a life of giving and involvement. Her joy and appreciation for the things that make life worth living: family, friendship, and continued learning.