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Al Herlands, ’66
After Pomona College, a life with family on the East Coast


My dad died at age 57, and had worked right up until illness incapacitated him for the last six months of his life. My wife of 30 years, Pat, never even knew him. She saw how hard I worked, and how many hours I put into it, and made me promise that I would take early retirement as soon as I could. Give up the stress, have the time to do the things we enjoy other than work, watch our children become competent adults, play with our grandchildren….This was the game plan for a long time.

I had told Pat long ago that by the earliest time I could retire, we would have been married 30 years, and would have lived all that time wherever I needed to live for my job, and that we could live wherever she wanted for the next 30 years of our marriage. Since my mother and grandmother lived in Goldsboro, NC, and her parents lived in Emerald Isle, NC, she wanted to live somewhere in between them. On the water with a big water view, but not the ocean. In a small town. Almost every summer before our children flew from the nest, we took the family for a week at the beach, from Dewey and Bethany to Emerald Isle, and most everywhere in between. Most often we were in the Duck area; the next most frequent location was Atlantic Beach. One day each beach vacation week for about 15 of those years, we’d take off and check out the where-we-were-nearby small towns and real estate as a possible retirement site.

Eventually, we found Oriental, the sailing capital of North Carolina. Population 875. Community theater and chorale, lots of active churches, Oriental Women’s Club, Ladies of the Neuse, Winos (monthly wine tasting coop), birding groups, local golf course, artists’ coop, growing share of the population made up of people like us, city sewer and water, and land we could afford. In 1999 just before hurricanes Dennis and Floyd, five years before I could retire at the earliest and draw an immediate annuity, we bought vacant land on the Atlantic ICW, where the Neuse River becomes the Pamlico Sound, 4 miles wide. We did a handshake with the most reputable local builder and went back home to the Virginia suburbs of the Washington DC metropolitan area. Our son graduated from college in 2000. Our daughter graduated from college in 2001. Pat bought hundreds of house plan books and a CAD program, and designed her dream house.


[Al Herlands of the Oriental Rotary tends to the business of securing one of the tents in place. The tents caused some excitement early Sunday morning, at a boat show in Oriental, 2010.] 

I retired as a federal civil servant on May 1, 2004 at age 55, and we moved immediately into rented space just outside of Oriental while our house was being built. We moved into the house between hurricanes Bonnie and Charlie.

Pat has taken up painting, photography, basketry, embroidery, and smocking. She is the Wine Fairy (coordinator) for the Winos. She is a Red Hatter and a member of Ladies of the Neuse and the Oriental Women’s Club. She is a member of three birding groups and has presented a slide show of her photos from a trip to the Rio Grand Valley to the middle-sized one, the Lower Neuse Bird Club. She is active in civic affairs – attending planning and town board meetings and participating in subcommittees and ordinance drafting groups. Four times a month she volunteers at the local free clinic. She has an active group of neighborhood friends who go out for dinner together once a week and plan some party in the neighborhood about once a week, too.

I do the landscaping and yard work for our 4.6 acres, most of which is grass and flower beds. I was elected last November to the city council. I am on the draft board for the three-county area. I am in the Rotary Club. I volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. I participate in the county Democratic club. I’m the past president of the local chapter of the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees. I carry Pat’s tripods and scopes and cameras on photography and birding trips. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking, both of which I enjoy and Pat doesn’t. I take care of outside the house; Pat does all the cleaning inside the house.

We take a couple of week-long birding trips each year, and several smaller ones. And now we travel to see our five-month-old granddaughter. We haven’t found time to learn to play golf or buy a boat yet. Other than the fights among the citizenry on density, development, condos, building heights and such, there is no stress and no time pressure to do anything. Pat and I hang out together, and do errands together, and watch Hardball with Chris Matthews and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. We do crosswords and sudoku. We read three or four newspapers daily on line, and get Time and Newsweek. We read some James Patterson thrillers. Every morning we have a glorious sunrise over the water. Sometimes the fish are jumping or the dolphins are frolicking. We regularly have herons and kingfishers and killdeer and gulls and pelicans and all kinds of ducks on the water side of the house, and blue birds and blue jays and cardinals and mockingbirds and hummingbirds and cowbirds and redwing blackbirds and sparrows and redheaded woodpeckers on the land side. Every night the sky is full of stars. The yard is full of deer and rabbits that eat my liriope and vegetables and daylillies.

We are very proud of our children. They are very nice people, still call us every Sunday (as I call my mother every Sunday), and have worked hard to be successful, contributing members of society up to the level of their capabilities.

We need to watch our pennies, but retirement life is good. No regrets.