Gloria Spicher – Satisfied With the Journey

She’s a mother, a walker, a shadow box maker and a gardener, who, after spending time amongst her blossoms and her beloved gnomes, quips “I can still get back up.” Gloria Spicher is 84 years positively old.

Born on 9/11 in Los Angeles, Gloria is a California native who grew up in Alhambra and Pasadena during the Depression and the Second World War. Her dad owned a machine shop in Los Angeles. Because he had his own business and her mother was a good manager, they always had food on the table during the Depression, she remembers, although they didn’t always have meat. “Sometimes it was just rice with sugar or boiled potatoes with cottage cheese,” she recalls, “but they didn’t know any different, so it was fine.”

She met her husband, Wes Spicher, in high school. He was a friend of her brother. When Wes went into the service, she started writing him. When he came out, they married, and eventually raised two sons, Chris and Gary. The boys were big babies (literally, not as in crying all the time), 10 ½ and 9 ½ pounds at birth. Her doctor, a woman ahead of her time, told her, “I hope you don’t have any more that size; it’s just too hard on me.”

Wes and Gloria bought a floral shop in Lancaster in 1953 and moved to Palmdale, California. Her husband spent a lot of time running the business while she raised their sons and managed the household. One of her great epiphanies in life came during this time—she realized she had to do things on her own and be able to take care of herself. It made her pretty independent, she says. Later, when her husband died of cancer after 55 years of marriage, her hard-won independence gave her the strength to care for him and cope with widowhood.

New Challenges

Gloria, who loves to travel, didn’t take her first trip to Europe until she was 48. Since then, she has traveled many places. Many of her trips in recent years have been by herself. But she’s fine with traveling alone. She says “in a way, it forces you to be more outgoing and put yourself out there more.” Currently, she’s planning a trip with her family to see the Christmas Markets in Germany in 2011.

In 1974, Gloria and Wes bought an old, charming lava rock building in Beaver, Utah. It was just a shell, the last remaining building of a fort complex. They planned to renovate it for their retirement. After purchasing it for $10,000, they asked the realtor, “What do you think the first thing is we should do?” His response: “I’d tear it down and start over.” On the way home, Gloria asked Wes, “Do you think we can really do this?” “Oh sure,” he said.

As it turned out, it was a bigger challenge than they had anticipated. In the process, Gloria, an efficient painter and wall-paperer, learned how to nail and saw. Thirteen years later, they moved in. The couple lived in their lava house from April through November each year and stayed in their fifth wheel in Mesa, Arizona, the rest of the time. While they had always had a garden of some sort, in Utah, they had vegetable gardens with wonderful green beans, beets and carrots. Gloria fondly remembers eating lots of fresh spinach salads. Perhaps this organic fare is one of the many secrets of her healthy aging!

Like many in her generation, walking was always a part of Gloria’s life. Since the family had only one car growing up, they had to ride their bikes, take a bus or walk everywhere. Her husband and she were avid walkers. But at 55 years old, she took her walking to the next level. One day at the YMCA, a friend who hiked suggested they hike the Grand Canyon. Gloria thought that sounded interesting. She came home and asked her husband “Do you think we could hike the Grand Canyon?” In typical Wes fashion, he said, “Of course.”

So they, and a group of eight or nine other couples, hiked the Grand Canyon that year and several times over the next ten years. When Gloria was 65, their group hiked from the North Rim of the Canyon to the South Rim, approximately thirty miles round trip. She still thinks walking is one of the best things people can do to stay in shape. To this day she walks, although now it’s at the mall instead of that big hole in the ground in Arizona. So I guess it was no surprise that, when asked what advice she can give to the rest of us, her first response was, “Keep moving” followed closely by “stay close to your friends and family, eat right, don’t overindulge, everything in moderation. Oh yeah, and enjoy life.”

What’s the Secret?

When I asked Gloria if I could interview her for my blog, she seemed genuinely surprised that anyone would want to hear about her life. I found her to be very inspirational in a quiet, confident manner and certainly one of the biggest inspirations to come out of 9/11, a date that she claimed long before any of the negativity that shrouds it now.

Everything about her life reflects her satisfaction with her past, present and whatever the future holds. “I feel very satisfied,” she said. “I don’t feel like there is anything that I have missed. Wes and I had a wonderful life. And we did so many things that I never thought I would do.”

Perhaps the secret to her positive attitude is just that simple—rather than tormenting herself with a multitude of expectations like so many of us do nowadays, she simply accepts life’s path for her, and appreciates what she has. And what she has is pretty darn great—health, beauty, family and friends, a beautiful new home, and a garden she can enjoy each day. For her, it’s been and is a very satisfying journey.

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8 Responses to “Gloria Spicher – Satisfied With the Journey”
  1. chris spicher says:

    She stays young because of friends like you! Karen this is a beautiful tribute , I can’t wait to go over to her house tomorrow for coffee and share this wonderful story, you are a good kid!

  2. Eva Spicher says:

    Wow! My Grandma or GMA as my brother and I have called her the past 20 years or so IS a great role model. I really enjoyed reading this article, you are a excellent writer. And I am really looking forward to that Riverboat Cruise on the Rhine next Christmas. A couple years back we went to Prague, Krawkow and Vienna and I got to know my Gma in a whole new way, we truly had a blast! Thanks again!

  3. Karen Callahan says:

    Good to hear from you, Eva. I have heard so much about you all of these years. I’m glad that you like the article and that you recognize how lucky you are to have a GMA like you do. Enjoy your travels together!

  4. Karen it was nice meeting and chatting with you and China at Travis and Judy’s Solstis. Christmas. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Gus, composer, of Tango Fiesta and I are working on new cd -called salsa chica. all music is written , now for arrangeing and recording. Look forward to reading your blogs. Why did you shoot so low? only 100 new members? AARP and AMAC combined have over 35 million members, they will be contacting you soon. You had better get some casesof toner for your bolgs. Hasta La Vista Baby, I’ll Be Back.!

    • I enjoyed meeting you as well, Herman, and look forward to working with you and Gus throughout the year. I am certainly shooting for more than 100 new members—I said 100 times as many as I have today; that’s somewhere over 5,000! I look forward to seeing your projects unfold.

  5. Chris Calaba says:

    Karen, I would like to meet you someday. The next time you are up here in the Antelope Valley, look me up at the Graphic Experience !!

    • admin says:

      Hi Chris. It was so great meeting you last week up in the AV, ever so briefly. It’s nice to put a face to a name. And I understand you have quite an inspirational story yourself. Send me an email with some background details. I’d love to hear more about what you’ve accomplished in your life.

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