Retiring in Wabash County: Q&A with three residents on staying connected in their community

It’s a time many of us dream of– retirement. Many of the workforce longs for the time when we no longer have to punch in a time clock or request a personal day off from work. Having the ability and free time retirement brings, can allow for hobbies and volunteerism. These activities can fulfill the body, mind, and soul, all while fostering a sense of belonging within the community. 

Input Fort Wayne sat down with three local retirees who call Wabash County home. We learn about their former careers, how they stay connected in their community, and what ‘home’ really means to them. 

Retirees (left to right) Dave Haist, Jan Roland, and Beverly Vanderpool walk through Downtown Wabash.Beverly Vanderpool

Input Fort Wayne: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?
BV: I was born and raised in Wabash. I went to Wabash High School and later had three kids. I spent most of my adult years here, working at OJ Neighbours Elementary School as administrative assistant to the principal. Back in 2015, Mayor Long asked me to come to work with him. I thought it was quite an honor, so I retired from being a school secretary and went to work as an assistant to the Mayor of Wabash for seven and a half years. I retired from the Mayor’s Office last February. 

IFW: What are some of your hobbies?
BV: I do everything. I don’t believe that age is a factor in your life. I’m a member of the Tri Kappa Sorority, and I’m the president of Wabash Area Community Theater. I’m going to start being a member of the Dallas Winchester Senior Center Board of Directors. I line dance there once a week. I’m retiring from the Visit Wabash County Board of Directors after serving my second six-year term with them. I’m part of the ‘queen team,’ directors for the Wabash County Scholarship pageant.  I’m also a member of the Indiana State Festivals Association pageant. I’m a member of the YMCA. I walk everyday, and try to get 10,000 steps a day there or outside depending on the weather. 

Now that I’m retired, every day you can just get up and choose what you want to do. The thing is don’t sit, just keep going.

Retirees (left to right) Jan Roland, Beverly Vanderpool, and Dave Haist browse books at Reading Room Books in Wabash.IFW: Why do you think it’s especially important to remain engaged in your community and be involved in your neighborhood, once you reach retirement age?
BV: I think it’s important because first of all, people are living way longer now than they ever have. 20 years ago, being in your 70s was kind of ‘the final hurrah,’ but now, people are living so much longer. We have so much experience in life to share. I just hope we’re turning the tide to people seeing we are valuable, and that we have so much to give.

I think it’s important to be involved. I think it keeps you young. The busier you can be, it keeps you young and focused, and it’s good on your brain. The worst thing you can do is retire and come home to sit. That’s so hard on your body and your brain, it’s just not healthy. Find something you’re interested in and just keep going – that’s my philosophy. 

IFW: What’s one of your favorite things about the Wabash community?
BV: The friendliness of the people and the opportunities that are in our small town that are as good as you’re going to find in Fort Wayne or Indianapolis. Honeywell Center is so beautiful and they bring in so much entertainment. It’s just a great place to live, it’s a small town with big-town amenities. You just can’t not like it here. That’s why I’ve been here my whole life. 

(Left to right) Jan Roland, Dave Haist, and Beverly Vanderpool walk through Downtown Wabash.Dave Haist

Input Fort Wayne: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?
DH: I was born in the Wabash Hospital and lived here until I went to college. After college, I spent about 10 years in South Bend, and then the rest of my time until retirement I was in Fort Wayne. I started out as a lawyer for 20 years with a firm called Barnes & Thornburg. I was their managing partner in Fort Wayne until I left the law firm and joined Do it Best Corp as part of their management team in Fort Wayne. I spent 15 years or so with Do it Best in a variety of roles, last as their chief operating officer, and retired about 10 years ago.  I retired early because I wanted to teach at Manchester University. I went to Manchester University before law school, and have always been active there. I was on their board and did other various roles, but I really had a desire to be in the classroom. I taught in their business school for a couple of years and was involved with business and nonprofit boards, of which I still do serve on a number of those boards around northeast Indiana. 

IFW: What sort of things do you do now to remain engaged in the community?
DH: I do a lot of different things, but primarily, it’s the work on the boards, serving on a number of boards in Wabash, Fort Wayne, and Indianapolis. That keeps me very active. I’ve also helped a number of nonprofits with fundraising. I’m active in our church here in Wabash and help on some of their administrative committees.  

IFW: Why do you feel like it's important to remain engaged and active in the community, especially at a retirement age?
DH: My intention when I retired early from Do It Best Corp. was not to sit at home or to travel constantly. You want to give back to the community, and be engaged in things that you have a passion for. I’ve been really fortunate to have those kinds of opportunities both in teaching, and then in board work where you really have an opportunity to give back to the communities that have given so much to you and your families. Being involved is invigorating and provides all sorts of interesting experiences and challenges that allow you to be a part of it. To me, that's what retirement is about. 

For me, I really want to be involved in doing work that I’m passionate about, that’s meaningful to me and hopefully to others. 

Jan Roland, Beverly Vanderpool, and Dave Haist at Modoc's Coffee Shop in Wabash. IFW: What are your favorite things about the Wabash community?
DH: I think you’ll find the community to be very welcoming. After I retired and my wife and I moved back to Wabash, we ended up moving here because we wanted to live in a historic home. Wabash has some really amazing historic homes. We had the opportunity to buy the house that I grew up in. It’s one of many really nice historic homes and historic neighborhoods that are available. 

The community itself was one of the reasons that brought my wife and I back to Wabash. It’s a welcoming community, it’s a community that has all sorts of activities and amenities, and community organizations of every type. It has great churches throughout, and shops in our downtown are locally owned with very interesting items and products. It’s a community that just welcomes people to be involved in whatever type of organizations that they’re passionate about. There are a large number of opportunities to be really involved in a meaningful way. That just makes the community that much stronger. 

IFW: What are some of your hobbies?
DH: I certainly enjoy going to the lake, getting out to the reservoirs and Salamonie State Park, and the trails out to Lagro. There are a lot of folks very involved in bicycling, and we have a great bicycle shop called Alley Cat downtown. If I want to see any kind of performance, whether it’s the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, country, or comedy, that’s available at the Honeywell Center or I can go see a first-run movie at the Eagles Theatre. 

(Left to right) Jan Roland, Dave Haist, and Beverly Vanderpool walk through Downtown Wabash.Jan Roland

Input Fort Wayne: Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself and where you’re from?
JR: I’m originally from Huntington, Indiana, and went to Indiana University, and graduated with my bachelors and master’s degree. I taught at Marion High School for a number of years and married my husband, Daniel, who was a school teacher and administrator. I was in education for a total of 41 years. I moved to Wabash in 1992 when I became the principal of Wabash Middle School and have stayed here ever since. I was the principal of Wabash Middle School for 11 years, and in 2003, moved to the Central Office as the Chief Business Officer for Wabash City Schools and retired from there in 2014. 

IFW: What are your favorite things about the Wabash community?
JR: Just the sense of community, people are very supportive of everyone. If somebody needs something, somebody will always step up; whether it’s the city, an individual, or a family. There is a great sense of community and a sense of belonging when you live in Wabash. We noticed very early into the time we lived here that people simply care about people here. 

IFW: What are some of your activities or hobbies?
JR: I travel a lot internationally and nationally with a group of four other women. We are going to Florida for two weeks in February, and we’re getting ready to go to Paris in April. That’s something I like to do in my spare time. 

Jan Roland and Beverly Vanderpool at Modoc's Coffee Shop in Wabash.IFW: How do you stay engaged with the community?
JR: The other thing is that it’s really important for me to give back to the community. I’m on the board for Visit Wabash County. I just finished a term on the City Council of Wabash. I was on that for a year and a half. I sit on a number of boards in the county, and giving back and being a part of the community in that aspect is very rewarding. It’s something I really enjoy doing. I’ve also served on the board of Downtown Wabash, an organization that focuses on helping the downtown businesses to promote that area. 

IFW: What do you think makes the Wabash area specifically good for retirees?
JR: In this day and age, I think Wabash is a very safe place to live. In the sense of community and people caring for each other, retirees can feel the security of knowing that their neighbors kind of watch out for them. You have friends that kind of ‘keep check’ on you. That’s just a feeling of security that’s missing in some other places when you retire. Wabash is just a really tremendous place to live. It makes it sound like it’s a Hallmark town, but it’s truly a very caring and nice place to live. You couldn’t ask for more in terms of feeling safe and cared about, and feeling a part of something as you do in Wabash. You could retire and live in Miami Beach or Chicago, but that sense of community doesn’t exist there like it does in small-town rural America. Wabash is just a really good example of that.

Farmer Charlie, a retired Wabash resident, shares that he stays active with various programs at the Y.Wabash is the focus of our Partner City series underwritten by Visit Wabash County. This series will capture the story of talent, creativity, investment, innovation, and emerging assets shaping the future of Wabash County, about an hour Southwest of Fort Wayne.
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Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Michigan native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over the Midwest. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, nonprofits, and community.