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Self-improvement a lifelong passion for Bloomington man BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Self-improvement for 91-year-old Roger DeClercq means always feeding your “inner culture vulture.” It means keeping your body moving, and never losing your sense of adventure. Whether it’s traveling the world through the Road Scholar program, holding season tickets to the Guthrie Theater or working out at the gym three times a week, the Bloomington resident is committed to living each day to its fullest. DeClercq is a well-known name in the St. Louis Park school system. He taught speech, theater and creative writing for 36 years before retiring in 1984. “I had a wonderful career working for a great administration,” said DeClercq. “I could do most anything I wanted. Over the years, we did numerous Shakespeare plays and many big musicals.” In his early 40s, DeClercq read a newspaper article about jogging that changed his life. “It was a pretty new thing back then. It said if you jog for half-an-hour three times a week, it would give you what you need. I got so addicted that I just kept going. I told myself I wasn’t going to end up with a gut.” DeClercq increased his running schedule to five or six times a week for many years. Only recently he traded in his running shoes for a membership to a local Snap Fitness.

“I’ve always felt the body is meant to move and not to sit in a rocking chair,” he said. DeClercq uses his weight after being discharged from the Army after World War II as a reference point. “I stay at about 180 pounds. Sometimes that means I have to exert a little extra effort after Christmas,” he said. DeClercq served in the 69th Division of the 273rd Infantry during World War II. He was part of the first American unit advancing from the west across Germany to meet the Russians advancing east. The meeting occurred at Torgau and meant the Allies had cut Germany in two and marked an important step towards the end of the war. On a biking trip years later, DeClercq visited the same place. “It was a great emotional experience,” he said. DeClercq began exploring the world with Road Scholar during his second marriage. The company, created by Elderhostel, is a not-for-profit provider of lifelong learning since 1975. “I fought it off for a couple of years because I thought it was a bunch of old, gray-haired people sitting around taking notes,” he said. His first trip with the travel company changed his thinking. “We went on a two-week trip to Israel and it totally changed my mind,” he said. “We took several more trips around the country, a couple to Europe, and I was totally sold.” IMPROVEMENT - TO PAGE 3 Roger DeClercq believes that self-improvement is a life-long pursuit. (Photo by Mike Hanks)


Page 2 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, September 19, 2013

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Improvement FROM PAGE 1 After losing his second wife to cancer, the same disease which took his first wife, he kept going. He estimates that he has taken 35 trips with the group, most of which were hiking or biking adventures. “I don’t have favorites,” he said. But when asked, he mentions the month-long trips to Russia and China as unforgettable. He once took an 18-day expedition down the Lewis and Clark trail, and spent a month-and-a-half in New Zealand and Australia. He also enjoys the slow pace of cruise ships, recalling an 11-day cruise of the Great Lakes and a 14-day cruise of the Mediterranean. Nowadays, if DeClercq isn’t traveling the world, he is attending local theater, opera and orchestra performances; serving on the board of the Westhampton Townhomes in Bloomington; or working on special projects, like the printed memoir about his cherished

Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, September 19, 2013 Page 3

grandmother, Bertina. “She was a wonderful, hardworking lady,” he said. “Three years ago, I finally decided if I don’t write something now, no one else is going to. Something had to be said about this wonderful grandmother.” Bertina raised seven children alone on a farm after her husband died of cancer. DeClercq remembers living with his grandmother when the weather turned too cold to ride his bike to school from his family farm. “It was a hardscrabble farm and she raised all seven kids there. I loved her dearly,” he said. To learn the computer skills necessary to complete the project, DeClercq took a Bloomington/Richfield Community Education class. Then he compiled his memories, along with those from his siblings, and family photographs into a printed, bound book he shared with his entire family, including his 28 children, grand and great-grandchildren. For more information about the Road Scholar program, go to www. Roger DeClercq of Bloomington stands near some of the flowers growing at his townhome. The roadscholar.org. 91-year-old was an active jogger for many years. (Photo by Mike Hanks)

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Page 4 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, September 19, 2013

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Rhoda Michaelynn of St. Louis Park opened Family Ties Video in 1987 after a successful career with Minnesota Public Radio and American Public Radio.

Preserving the sights and sounds of the past BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Rhoda Michaelynn of St. Louis Park knows from experience the regret of family legacies overlooked until it’s too late. She wishes she had a video recording of her grandmother telling stories of when she played piano for the silent movies and teaching her the standard villain theme. “Although I have treasured memories of her piano playing, and we have an audio cassette, we don’t have any video of her playing. It is a lost legacy I

wish my children could have seen.” This experience stuck with Michaelynn. She realized that every family has its own history to pass on, and their own regrets when it is lost. This inspired the former senior vice president of American Public Radio to open Family Ties Video in 1987. Although until then she had never operated a video camera or touched video editing equipment, she approached the new business as a marketing puzzle. “I thought this concept of using video to capture family memories was a viable business,” she said. “Our emphasis and niche is more about using the

technology to fill a need of preserving memories rather than finding customers to simply use the technology.” Most of what St. Louis Park-based Family Ties Video does is simple transfer – videotape to DVD, scanning photos and slides, transferring home movies, vinyl records, cassettes and reel-to-reel tape to CD. Michaelynn sees this as the first step in helping people preserve what they have. “At a time when people are faced with the stressful task of downsizing, they may not be comfortable with or aware of what technology can offer to help them make the most from their

memories,” said Michaelynn. Dave Schneider of Golden Valley faced the daunting task of cleaning out a farmhouse, which had been in the family since the Civil War. “My father lived in the house my grandfather built in the 1860s. There was almost a century of collected stuff we had to figure out what to do with,” said Schneider. Michaelynn came up with a creative way to solve the problem of what to do with all the items and how to share them with the entire family. MEMORIES - TO PAGE 9


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Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, September 19, 2013 Page 5

H2462_71869_CMS Accepted 09/01/2013. Plan performance Star Ratings are assessed each year and may change from one year to the next. HealthPartners is a health plan with a Medicare contract. Š2013 HealthPartners


Page 6 Mature Lifestyles • Thursday, September 19, 2013

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Sharon Fischman, owner of Empty the Nest, cleans out homes after a move and sells many of the leftover items in her retail shop located at 1121 Cliff Road East in Burnsville.

Empty the Nest finds treasure in unexpected places BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Sharon Fischman sees treasure in unexpected places. After years of watching items get thrown away after a move, things that the owners could no longer keep, didn’t want or charities wouldn’t take, she decided to do something about it. She took a chance and opened Empty the Nest, a Burnsville company that comes in after the movers are done and puts the leftovers on the shelf and then into the hands of someone who can use them. “We take everything, wall-to-wall, and we treat it with dignity and respect worthy of family,” said Fischman.

Empty The Nest is a new endeavor for Fischman, who worked for years in television and sales before staying home with her children when they were young. When she went back to work, she got a job as a moving manager. “That’s how this whole thing came to be,” she said. “I was sort of like the wedding planner of a move. When seniors moved out of their homes, I coordinated the whole thing.” Fischman planned other people’s moves for more than eight years before opening Empty the Nest. “There is such a need for it. I try to make it a win-win all around,” said Fischman. The cost of the cleanout is often defrayed by the value of the items, which

are sold in the Empty the Nest store at 1121 Cliff Road East in Burnsville or donated to charity. “We sell to dealers, and we price things low so we can help others make a living, or have things they couldn’t otherwise afford,” said Fischman. “One of my dealers posted a picture of a sign made out of junk. I get chills talking about it. This is all stuff that would be thrown away.” Empty the Nest recently assisted 78-year-old Lucy Shepard and her two sisters in emptying their family’s lake home, built by their father in 1920. Shepard recalls spending her summers there growing up. Even after she married, she and her family would pack up as soon as school let out and drive to

the 100-acre getaway. Last fall, the sisters began dividing up favorite memorabilia from the cherished home. By this summer, they were ready for Empty the Nest to come in and take care of what was left. “I heard about Empty the Nest from a newspaper article,” said Shepard. “Sharon came in, looked around and gave us a price. In literally an hour and a half, we solved our problem of what do with all the leftover items.” Empty the Nest came in and determined what was trash, retrieved sellable items for the retail store, and took the furniture to Bridging, a Twin Cities charity. EMPTY - TO PAGE 10


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Lawyer focuses on serving small business owners BY EMILY HEDGES CONTRIBUTING WRITER Bill Gschwind is a different kind of lawyer. As a member of the Twin Cities North Chamber of Commerce and long-time small-business owner, Gschwind had a vision for the kind of legal help people like him needed in today’s economy, and returned to school at age 48 to make that vision a reality. Early in Gschwind’s caBill Gschwind reer, he worked in sales and management for a medical manufacturing company. He decided to go back to school, earning an MBA in 1994. He left his job and opened an equipment rental business in Lino Lakes. At a time when the market was changing and he thought about getting out of the business, Volvo offered the opportunity to purchase a franchise rental business. However, success didn’t follow. “I was able to negotiate a decent termination agreement, but I lost quite a bit financially. At 48 years old, I thought, ‘What am I going to do now?’” he recalls. He always had an interest in law and felt lawyers didn’t understand what it was like to be a small business owner. “They didn’t understand what I was going through or how to help me. I thought this would be a good thing for me to go into,” he said. “This is what motivated me. I wanted to be a different kind of lawyer serving small business owners.” For the next three-an-a-half years, he worked as a small-business consultant during the day and attended law school at night. He admits he pursued a number of get-rich-quick programs to try to make ends meet while also helping put three children through college. “It can be daunting and a sign of failure to start over,” said Gschwind. “Some older people may feel out of place with younger people, but I found the opposite. I enjoyed the educational process. Law is constant reeducation.” He passed the bar exam in 2009 and joined a solo practice with another attorney serving the residential contractor market. Last December, Gschwind decided to strike out on his own. His clients are primarily owner/operator businesses, a position he understands from experience. “Lawyers never seem to understand how business works. You always have to go to their office, and they invoice you for every phone call. You learn to ask them a question quickly and get off the phone,” he said. “It never gave me the opportunity to make sure the attorney knew my business. I want to get back to the day

when your attorney was a trusted resource,” he said. Gschwind decided to structure his practice the way he wished someone had done it for him. He offers clients four pricing plans to choose from. All plans include unlimited phone calls and emails. “Most people think it’s the poor who can’t get a lawyer. In reality, it’s the middle-class, regular person who can’t afford the $250-$500 an hour. For way too long lawyers have ignored the realities of people in the marketplace. That’s why I’ve created a system to offer services for the people who need it,” said Gschwind. Maximizing technology is one way in which Gschwind is able to keep costs low for customers. Part of his re-education was gaining more than a casual understanding of computers and the Internet. “People my age and older sometimes don’t know how to take full advantage of new technology. We’ve got to learn to operate in the current world,” he said. He also believes that Baby Boomers must be willing to see the world in a new light.

“In the world I grew up in, you got a career and stayed in that career. That world has changed. Nowadays, if you’re not happy in a career, there’s nothing wrong with a career change. Explore things; try something you’ve always wanted to do. Fifty is a great time to look at a next career. Take a stand, take a risk, start a business,” he said. Gschwind admits his journey was difficult, but one that has paid off in many aspects of his life. “This was good for me personally to go through and see I could redevelop myself. It was a huge accomplishment that helped me put aside some of the disappointment and embarrassment, and discouragement I felt in my career,” he said. “It’s good for our children to see us go through those tough times. They see that sometimes things don’t work out, but we just dig in and move forward.” To contact Bill Gschwind, call 651-470-3669 or email bill@mncls.com.


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Memories FROM PAGE 4 “We did a variety of work for him which included transfer of home movie film to DVD, scanning of photo album images and slides, and the creation of memory panels which featured not just images of the sentimental objects, but more importantly, a way of preserving the memory of the objects,� said Michaelynn. Dave particularly loves the panel that tells the story of his grandpa’s old violin. “Grandpa would take it out occasionally and tell us stories of wedding dances he would play in the 20s and 30s. It was the stories around him being a fiddle player, and the times watching him play that I remember. Being the musician in the family, it was my special bond,� said Dave. Michaelynn believes that people easily find the value in their ancestors’

legacy, but sometimes don’t recognize their own stories to tell, ones their children and grandchildren may cherish in future years. “People value the generation before, but they devalue what they have to pass on,� said Michaelynn. If she has a client overwhelmed by the process of sharing their memories, or tackling the daunting task of downsizing boxes, attics or houses full of family memorabilia, she encourages them simply to start. Family Ties Video can help sort, identify what people have, provide estimates, and offer options for doing projects in stages. “People will say, ‘What I wouldn’t give’ but how many of us take the time to take advantage of technology for this purpose?� said Michaelynn. “It’s the next generation, the adult children in their 50s and 60s, who start to realize how precious it is to have mom’s voice on tape.� For more information on Family Ties Video, go to www.familytiesvideo.com or call 952-929-6484.

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Empty FROM PAGE 7 “Without any grandchildren around, we couldn’t have done it alone. We’d still be filling boxes,� said Shepard. “Everything that was worthwhile was able to go to people who needed it. I’m very pleased.� Shepard is eager to tell others about Empty the Nest. “Sharon is definitely business-oriented. She knows of what she speaks,� she said. “We had a huge floating dock, and she didn’t even bat an eye. She said they could do it all, and they did.� When Fischman lost her own parents, she saw firsthand the impact Empty The Nest can have in the lives of her clients. “It hit me on a whole

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new level,� she said. “Showing respect and compassion to the things left behind is important to everyone involved.� When it comes to starting a new business after 50, Fischman believes it can be easier than starting one at a younger age. “My age has given me confidence and experience to know what the next right thing is to do. I also believe when I am doing the right thing, I am being guided by something bigger than me. I notice that,� she said. Her advice to others seniors is simple: Don’t let your fear stop you; have it come from the heart; fill a need for others; find experts to help you do what you cannot do; and be prepared to work hard. For more information, go to www.emptythenest. com or call 952-808-2933. Empty the Nest owner Sharon Fischman stands near a sign for the store that is made out of odds and ends.

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