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The two Cloverdale women who were killed in a Geyserville crash July18 after being hit by a suspected drunken driver were Nancy "Sue" McBride and Beverly Jones, both 77 years old.

At first glance, one might assume these were women who had led long lives and that it was a fair time to go. But these were women with a lot more life in them, as would be true for many individuals in their 70s or 80s these days.

My mother-in-law, Sue McBride was a master gardener, avid reader, gifted painter, world traveler, patron of the arts, bridge player, community volunteer, teacher, translator for the Latino community, good friend and enlightened citizen. And that was all in the past year. Her weekly calendar could exhaust a much younger person.

Sue and Bev were close friends, taking trips together, sharing meals and a mutual appreciation of current events and the arts. They were part of a large circle of close friends who were all living life to the fullest.

All were strong vital women involved in the Cloverdale Senior Center, Friends of the Library, the Garden Club, Cloverdale Food Bank, the Boys & Girls Club, Cloverdale Community Outreach Committee, autobiography, painting and Spanish classes. They also were part of their respective religious communities and service clubs who came together in friendship and service, celebrated happy times and supported each other in difficult times.

For Sue, retirement meant you had the time to spend on those things you were passionate about. Never one to sit still for long, as soon as she retired to Cloverdale, she took the opportunity to teach a couple of Spanish classes at Cloverdale High so that she could teach her grandchildren.

Over the next 14 years she redefined herself and established herself in the community in a way that time had not permitted during the years she had worked full time. Her insatiable desire for knowledge led her to Sonoma State University's Osher Lifelong Learning classes and advanced Spanish studies in Mexico.

As she explored her creative side, a gifted painter emerged. Always one to engage in a political or spiritual discussion, she felt empowered by the wisdom that comes with years of living and observation. Her compassion and empathy for those in need led her to volunteerism.

As a guest contributor to an article on volunteerism published in the December 2008 issue of Council on Aging's Sonoma Seniors Today, Sue wrote:

"I've learned from our clients that no matter how dismal and hopeless one's situation may be, there is always the possibility that life will get better. Too, there are an incredible number of potholes and hazards that our people face. Illness, disability, divorce, abuse, drugs, alcohol, unemployment, low wages, bad choices and mental problems can be among the crippling problems of our society.

"Perhaps the most important lesson of all is how wonderfully tireless and giving are the people who worked with me in Cloverdale Family Service and who now work for Cloverdale Community Outreach Community. I am just a little cog. I began as an innocent and naive neophyte and finished as a seasoned volunteer, and I continued to see the glass as half full."

Here at the Council on Aging, one thing is very clear: Seniors are continuing to be active and independent for many more years than previous generations.

Although Sue and Bev were incredible models of the senior community, they are by no means alone. More and more often, seniors are well into their later 80s and 90s before that need assistance to maintain their independence. Clearly there is a positive trend toward healthy aging which includes an active social life, continued personal growth and service to community.

Council on Aging has more than 350 volunteers, 85 percent over the age of 60, who serve as the backbone of the organization. These volunteers are part of a much larger group of healthy active seniors who pursue their interests, follow their passion and serve their community.

In all likelihood, they will not die tragic deaths and their stories will not be heard by thousands. To their families, friends and the communities they serve, they are all heroes.

You can reach Marrianne McBride at mmcbride@ councilonaging.com.

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