“Retirement is overrated.” That rare statement, made by one very busy gentleman in his eighth decade, is becoming more and more believable by seniors who are finding new sources of fun, adventure, and purpose in their later years.
With the proliferation of fitness centers, a growing emphasis on healthy eating, advances in medical treatment, and opportunities to connect—on a walk, on the dance floor, in a book club—we are surrounded by amazing examples of a newly energized generation.
So, if you thought a Renaissance Man was a thing of the past, think again. That opening quote was made by one Dr. John LaCasse, who has ricocheted through life with ups and downs, zigs and zags, ultimate highs and dismal lows. This mountain boy from Montana became a wizard of wealth in Seattle as a successful yacht broker for 25 years. It brought him into relationships with business magnates such as Boeing, Weyerhaeuser, political figures such as Secretary of State George Shultz, actor Gene Hackman, Prince Rainier of Monaco, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau, and even organized crime boss Johnny Carbone.
Penthouse living, sports car-driving, Harley-trekking…Being handed checks in the millions, drinking and smoking to excess—it was all real until one day it hit him: “Why am I living this life of fast and furious? Why am I letting this happen?”
Even though marriage and fatherhood provided new sources of happiness and responsibility, the loss of two sons brought unimaginable grief. The piles of money meant nothing. Curiosity and education meant everything. John went back to school in middle age, but his somewhat ‘know-it-all’ attitude got him kicked out of three universities.
Did that send him back home to watch ‘soaps’ on TV? Nope. He delved into reading more and developed a keen understanding and desire to embrace transcendental studies. He earned an MBA in International Management, a Forbes School of Business Faculty Member of the Year award, and a Ph.D. in Education eLearning. He also wrote three books.
“I’m not sure where this thirst for knowledge came from,” says John. “I was an only child growing up with a dad who was a true frontiersman. He taught me how to handle a rifle before I could barely walk, and one freezing night I had to sleep in the carcass of an elk just to stay warm. But Dad was also a gifted artist and a cartographer. On the other side, my mom was into music, art and culture, so I grew up loving everything from pop music to opera.”
Then there was Grandmother, who instilled a bit of quirkiness and style in her little grandson. As someone might have observed: “Who is the woman in the flower print dress, with a straw floppy hat, having tea at a table next to her car, on the way to Mullan Pass?”
Armosa was a small, very French lady, who by all accounts was the family matriarch. Armosa was first among equals. She loved the old ways, but she stayed with the times. One day, she stepped up and, to everyone’s surprise, bought a showroom-new Studebaker sedan. Four doors, big sweeping fenders, forest green, perfect.
She loved the car’s utility, drove it like a horse, and was quite happy to pull over and have high tea, or lunch – anywhere – traffic notwithstanding. She carried her small round table, making tea, had a cloth for the table, and always donned her hat for the sun. Today, John LaCasse does what he wants, when he wants, and most likely does it with his long-ago grandmother.
Fearless John has waded into more than one situation with some interesting results. On a large transaction involving a meeting with the Chairman of Native Northwest Tribes, he realized he had no experience with Native Americans. When he showed up for the meeting, the tribal chairman motioned for John to take his seat across from him. John sat. The Chairman sat. They stared at each other. John raised his right hand and said, “How.” The Chairman leaned in and in a soft voice replied, “I have a master's degree, and I’m writing my Ph.D. dissertation on Biomass at the University of Washington, and I speak English.” That became a friendship that lasts to this day, and John carries a Chief Honor Blanket from The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.
One day, John’s longtime friend, Steve Sarkowsky, sent his son Shiah over to visit a “mature specimen” for some perspective. John listened to Shiah, instead of the other way around. Shiah said, “You should do a Podcast.”
Always up for new ventures, John jumped onboard. The meeting turned into John (the old man) and Shiah (the high school student) building a Podcast that today airs on eight platforms in 41 countries.
Lest people think John LaCasse is some superhuman enigma from outer space (although, as his friend, I’m not totally unsure of that!), it should be pointed out that those fast and furious years of physical abuse took a toll on his body. He is very grateful for the ongoing care and attention of his partner, Christine, and the doctors at Virginia Mason who call him “clinically interesting.” One doctor told her intern, “If you want to pass your boards, just read John’s file!”
I mean, who else could send a text message and selfie from his hospital bed, after Christine’s speedy hospital chase, with the message, “Had a heart attack. More later.”
The “more later” is deciding to follow the advice of many friends to write his story, so Deals, Danger, Destiny is about to be launched by Sunbury Press, and John is busy writing Book 2, the continuing story.
His advice to other seniors: “Keep going! Retirement is overrated. I’m having tons of fun. You can too.”