Carol Stueckle, former mayor of Colfax, recently lost her job with a hospital foundation.
She cried for several days, then she got busy creating an event-planning/fundraising/motivational speaking business she named “A New View at 72.”
The business name reflects her age. And her unique view on survival in tough times.
She shared that view in a recent Wise Words interview at the Spangle Saloon and Grill. She chose the location because she doesn’t like driving in Spokane’s traffic, and Spangle is halfway between Colfax and Spokane.
• In 1985, my mother and husband both passed away within five months of each other. That event changed my life. I was 47.
We had a wheat, peas and lentil farm between Colfax and Palouse. We owned some acreage, but most of it was leases. We had just gotten into a very large lease with expensive machinery.
Benny died the day after my birthday. He was 52. He had a massive heart attack on the farm, getting ready for harvest.
We had insurance. We had our plans made, but we were just enlarging our business.
• My mother had died in March. My mom was 78. I was a pampered child. My mom was my help.
I had to have surgery that year, too. I called my doctor friend in the middle of the night and said, “I cannot do this anymore. I cannot live.”
You know what he did? Cussed at me. He said, “You are going to do it.” I said, “Why do you think I’ll be OK?” He said, “Logic.”
And he was so darn mean, I thought, “Fine, I’ll live to spite you.”
• You are not crazy in intense grief, but you are in a different state. Finally, I got to a Christian psychologist, and she said, “Eighty percent of people with intense (grief) feelings end up alcoholics.”
Well, I never drank, but I sure made some bonehead decisions. I kept the farm for (several) years, but I kind of made a mess of it. I just did what I could do. And that was eventually to have some auction sales and get rid of the farm. It just wasn’t in the cards.
• I thought, “I’ll run for mayor. That ought to be fun.” I did that for four years. I learned we all have different viewpoints. If we don’t have conflict, we have a dictatorship.
They tried to recall me. It was thrown out. I had a wonderful attorney from Spokane. He kept telling me: “Always take the high road.” I tried to do that. I finished out my term. But I didn’t run again.
• So then I needed a job. Not only because I liked to be busy, but for the money, too.
I went to the hospital administrator and said, “What I’d really like is to be the activity director.” He said, “We don’t need that, but we do need a director for the foundation of our hospital.” Within five minutes I was hired. I worked there 17 years.
• I thought of a “New View at 72” when a vice president of the foundation came to my home and said, “We’re going to have to do something different. We need a computer person. We need a business manager.”
After a few days it sunk in and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’ve been fired.” They tried to be real nice about it.
What I did for the first two weeks is cry. Really cry. Then I knew there wasn’t a soul who was going to do anything for me if I kept crying. So I decided to go on my own.
• There isn’t a thing that happens in life that isn’t temporary. And most things have solutions.
I’ve seen it through history: This was bad. That was bad. All of a sudden things got better.
• What can people do for friends going through a tough time? Listen, because it’s cathartic to be able to talk.
It’s also important to get out or you can really get into yourself. So if you know someone unemployed, take them out to lunch and laugh.
Anything helps. Do something. The only thing that doesn’t help is to do nothing
• I’ve got to talk about my girls, because they’ve been wonderful. They’ll say: “Mother, stop whining around.” Or “Shut up, you’re fine.” That’s what I need.
The girls didn’t do one thing I told them to do. I had hoped they’d become like managers of the opera house. Well, one became a teacher and works for juvenile services. The other is a pediatrics manager at Sacred Heart. They get down and dirty with the real.
It’s all been worth it, when I hear those wonderful voices every day on the phone, from both of my daughters, saying, “Hi, Mom, what’s going on?” And sometimes, I tell them.
• I grew up on a farm near Endicott. My parents knew they weren’t going to make it on that little farm. They became insurance agents in the 1940s, because there weren’t any in Endicott.
I think I learned entrepreneurship from them. I don’t think I knew it at the time. But I knew you have to figure yourself out. You can do it, if you have a little bit of confidence in yourself.
• We never had running water on the (Endicott) farm. We had the pump outside. We had an outhouse. We didn’t know any different.
It seems like on that farm, we always had the preacher over for special occasions. So he would shave outside. I can still see him outside with a mirror, trying to shave.
When we moved into Endicott, I was thrilled. But I don’t think my dad trusted the niceties in town. He was German. My maiden name was Weitz.
The first thing he built was a smokehouse so he could smoke the sausage. And an outhouse. I don’t think he trusted the sewer system. I loved the indoor plumbing.
• Every 10 years, it just got better and better and better. Look at our medical system. We used to have to call on a ringer phone and get people to haul us to the doctor, and the doctor maybe wasn’t there. Now we have wonderful medical service.
• If you choose to go the other direction, pinpoint the flaws, you are always going to find them. I choose not to do that.
• I have no resentment. I can walk up to anyone and say hello. I don’t hold grudges. It’s a waste of time.
I don’t judge one soul. Maybe they are doing the best they can. We have no idea what other people go through. I used to be terribly judgmental. I knew pretty much what everyone should be doing. But that was when things were going well.
I didn’t know anything. I still don’t know very much. We’ve all done stupid things. We all will continue to do stupid things. Forget it.
• I made it, but what is the alternative? The alternative is to be mean and grouchy and sad. And I like to have fun.