May 5, 2013 • 01:16:33 p.m.

Boomer Beat: Couple keeps changing with the times

By SUE NEUSCHEL - sueneuschel@att.net

(Photo provided)

One of the challenges Boomers have to face because of their large numbers is competition for jobs and rapidly changing skill sets.

Within our lifetimes, the opportunity to spend your entire career with one employer has become rare, and no job is safe unless a person is ready to learn new skills. One sure way to lose a job or even a career is to remain in a rut. The words “that’s not the way we used to do it” have completely gone out of style. Innovation trumps tradition almost every time. 

Jim and Kathy Uszler of Sun City in Huntley can tell you the need to change is the only thing that has not changed in their lives. Because they have embraced that adage, rather than lamenting it, they are a dynamic couple who are retired in name only. 

Jim is a graduate of Marquette University. His first job after graduation was at a TV station in Wausau, Wis. All of his subsequent jobs have relied heavily upon his knowledge and skill in communications, yet there has been a lot of variety in what he did in the course of his career. Leaving Wisconsin, Jim started a radio station in Sycamore and began to hone his skills in the world of advertising. A faltering economy hit the radio and newspaper industries hard, however, so Jim made another move, this time buying and managing an insurance company. 

It has been said the perfect job is the one in which all your gifts and your past work experience comes together to meet a new challenge. That is what happened when Jim became the executive director of the Mt. Prospect Chamber of Commerce. The experience he had gained in starting up a new business, promoting and running special events, using media to advertise and running educational programs all contributed to his success.

The first big undertaking Jim assumed for the Chamber was teaching others in the business community how to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to capture market share. When he took his position, the Chamber of Commerce was antiquated. Jim moved them into the 21st century with wifi and broadband access. 

Twenty-five years ago, Jim married Kathy. They celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in September in Paris. Both had been married before. She had three children and he had two, and today they enjoy 10 grandchildren between them. 

Kathy’s career path led her to be a manager for a Chicago investment firm, but the economy and flow of business eventually led to a dead end. It was time to re-evaluate her goals. She realized she didn’t want a desk job. She leaned in to her passion for gardening and took a Master Gardener course. Those Latin classes she toiled through in school all of a sudden found their usefulness when it came to plant names. By taking courses here and there, Kathy gradually grew into a gardening expert.

She contacted McKay Nursery, a company that had been in business for 115 years and was known for quality, and won a job as a representative. Further training led her to develop an expertise in garden design. Eventually, she began to work her own crew and started her own business called The Plant Manager. 

These days, Kathy still is at work designing and drawing garden plans by hand. She has quite a following in Cook County and hopes to expand her business in McHenry County. Her garden in Mt. Prospect was featured in four garden walks and made it really hard for her to relocate to Huntley. Yet the people who bought their house hired her to do spring clean up and perpetuate her garden legacy.

Kathy is planting a new but smaller garden in Sun City. She is enjoying the McHenry County Master Gardener program and is delighted with all the opportunities it offers her. She is exploring joining a local quilt group and is enjoying decorating her new house. 

For information on Kathy’s business, visit theplantmanager.net.

The move to Sun City was pretty painless for Jim. He knew people who had moved to Huntley already and had other contacts through his Rotary International involvement.  Jim is still active with the GOA regional business association and acts as a consultant working with government affairs.

Sun City has 41 different neighborhoods, and Jim is the new representative for neighborhood seven. His hobbies are fixing up his truly awesome 1973 Ford Mustang and going to cruise nights, playing golf, taking photographs and world travel.

• Sue Neuschel shares her experiences as a Baby Boomer, offers unique places to visit in and around McHenry County. She can be reached at sueneuschel@att.net.


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