wise counsel

At left: John Chi, with wife, Cecile,  credits his mother with giving him the drive to pursue an education and have a successful career as a chemical engineer.




“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”—Marcel Proust

by Holly Schultz

Being an older adult doesn’t guarantee a  person also is wise, but philosophers through the ages ave agreed that seniors’ life experiences give them special insight. Most of us need only examine our own family trees for precious seed pearls of advice. My mother, Carol, who passed away five years ago, used to tell my four brothers and me, “Tomorrow is a bright, new day.” She taught us that each day holds promise, and to be grateful for that simple (but not so simple) thing.

Thousands of long-time mt. lebanon residents have the benefit of colorful life experiences. For starters, they had the good sense to live here! MTL asked local seniors: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Or, what single piece of advice would you like to share?

John Chi, Pin Oak Road

John met his wife of 53 years, Cecile, on a blind date in Milwaukee, They have three children: Gregory, 54; Yvonne, 51, and Jennifer, 47. His family fled his native China when Japan seized Shanghai in 1941, moving first to the Dutch East Indies, then to the U.S. His mother was a “Tiger Mom,” he says, one reason why he excelled in science, eventually earning his Ph.D. in chemical engineering at University of Pittsburgh’s night school.

The best piece of advice Chi ever received came from his mother. His family had lost much over the years, having left their homeland to escape a Communist regime. But his wise mother taught him, “What you have learned—your education—you can never lose.” John took that advice to heart. While attending undergraduate and graduate school, he worked long hours to save money for his tuition. Westinghouse hired him as a chemical engineer; he worked there until retirement. John admits that his mother’s “pushing” helped him throughout his career. He is proud that he and Cecile were able to instill the value of an excellent education in their children.

Ruth Felt, Carnegie Drive

Ruth, a 50-year resident, lives in home where she and her husband Robert, who died in 2001, raised their family. She is an active volunteer in church activities and loves cooking for church meals. She has two children: Robert, in New Mexico, and  Becky Bickel, a Pittsburgh pediatrician, and has five grandkids—four boys and a girl.

Ruth received her best piece of advice from her boss at Sears Roebuck a long time ago, when she was supervising a group of women in retail sales. She told her boss she was concerned about the women’s attitudes toward customers. Her boss said, “We don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” Ruth and her boss knew she needed to handle this situation delicately. She pulled each of the employees aside individually and explained that good, pleasant and respectful attitudes would help assure that their customers returned to the store.

Sally Abelson, Birch Avenue

Sally, a resident since 1952, and her husband, Victor, lived on Audubon Avenue when raising their children, Barbara Crawford, 61; Martin, 60, and David, 55, Victor died in 1971, when Sally was in her mid-40s. She retired after 21 years working for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor in the unemployment office and has been a member of Mt. Lebanon Village for nearly three years. She has four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The best advice she ever received came from a neighbor. Sally’s husband was older than she, and his health had taken a turn for the worse. The concerned neighbor told her: “You have a young family who depends on you. So you should think about getting a job.” Sally wasn’t sure what she was qualified to do; she hadn’t worked since before having her children. And she never had attended college. In 1970, she took a state civil service test, passed the first time and started working for the Department of Labor and Industry. A year after she started working, her husband died.

The second step Sally took towards gaining independence was learning to drive in her 40s. Nearly every day, her son was driving her to see her husband at a nursing home. Sally signed up for driving lessons and got her license on July 31, 1971. The following day, her husband passed away while she was hanging clothes in his closet in the nursing home.

“The choice I made to take that job with the state saved my family—and saved myself,” Sally reflects.

Jerry Scherer, Skylark Circle

Jerry graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, as did his wife, Nancy, who died in 1999. They raised nine children here on Parkway Drive (Kathy, 58; Dr. Jerry, 57; Mike, 56; Trish, 54; Nancy, 53; Katie, 52; Diane, 50; Dr. Pat, 49 and Amy deceased). Jerry has 23 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also had two Great Danes, which he says “were easier to raise than nine kids.”  A resident of Mt. Lebanon for 69 years, Jerry has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Pittsburgh and is the former owner of a printing and printing equipment company.

Jerry had an older sister. When they were in school, a fellow student was bullying her. Jerry wasn’t sure what to do about the situation—he was a little afraid of standing up to the school bully. So he approached his father, who told him: “Getting beat only hurts for a minute. Being a coward hurts for a lifetime.” Taking that advice, Jerry went after the offending schoolmate, and neither he nor his sister was bothered again. His dad’s advice has helped him countless times in life, Jerry says, prompting him to believe in himself and take risks.

From left: Ruth Felt circa 1970s, having a treat at her station at Kaufmann’s. Sally Abelson, circa 1950, put family first. Jerry Scherer’s dad helped him stand up to bullies.
Dr. Rick Siker, Crestvue Manor Drive
Dr. Rick Siker, with fellow ROMEO club member. Siker’s wife encouraged him to take chances.

Rick has been married 61 years to Eileen, a retired nurse and volunteer with Family Hospice and the Arthritis Foundation.  They have lived here for 51 years and enjoy the home Eileen designed. The couple has five children: Kathleen, 59; Jeffrey, 57; David, 55; Paul, 50, and Richard, 49, and eight grandchildren.  A Korean War veteran, Rick was assigned for a while to an Army MASH unit. He retired as chair of Mercy Hospital’s Department of Anesthesiology. He has travelled (so far) to 48 countries, lecturing in 17, and was part of an eight-person medical task force invited to tour China in 1974 during its Cultural Revolution. He enjoys weekly meetings of the ROMEO Club (Retired Old Men Eating Out), a group of retired professionals who gather for lunch and conversation. Rick credits his wife with giving him the advice that has become their mantra: “You only regret the things you haven’t tried.”


Lillian Schultz, Bower Hill Cooperative

Lillian and her husband George, who died in 2000, were married 49 years and raised their children, Sandy, 55, and Ken, 52, on Altadena Drive. Lil is my mother-in-law, and enjoys spending time with our two sons. She earned a B.S. in business administration from University of Michigan. Her favorite job was working for the executives of Jones and Laughlin Steel Company. She still “keeps her hands” in the family commercial construction business started by her Swedish immigrant father.

Lillian is a loyal, doting friend to many. Keeping in touch with her dear friends is important to her. She recalls something her friend Dorothy, now deceased, once told her: “When you get a nudge to check in with someone, whether it’s friend or family, act on it.” That advice has encouraged Lillian to call or jot a note more often than she used to.

From left: Ray Bower never gives up. Lillian Schultz makes a point to stay in touch with friends. Fern Frank with her mother, center. Fern’s mother taught her to weigh her words carefully.
Ray Bower, Questend Avenue

Ray, who was born and raised in Mt. Lebanon, lives in the house where he and his wife, Mary, who died in 1998, raised their children, Philip and Susan. He has five grandchildren.  A graduate of Westminser College, Ray is a familiar local figure, as he used to referee both football and basketball here. he is in the Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame as a college football referee. Ray was in his 40s when he decided to take up running. He started off slowly, but before long, he was jogging regularly and enjoying it. Ray was invited by someone he met running to get involved in the Senior Games. He is an accomplished sprinter who competes year-round, loves relays and has been (so far) to six world championships.

His advice: “If I see somebody working out, I tell them ‘You are helping your own health. Keep it up and don’t quit!’”

Fern, a resident since 1960, lives in the first home built on Moffett Street. She was a dietitian at Ohio Valley Hospital in Wheeling before marrying Bob, who grew up on Cedar Boulevard and graduated from Kiski Prep. Bob died in 2008. Fern has four surviving children: Carol, 61; Thomas, 58; Janet, 51, and Nancy 44, and two grandchildren.

Fern got her best advice  from her mother: “Be very careful what you say. You never know how your words can hurt someone.”