• Gene & Lorene – One Reverse Mortgage Life Stories

  • by Danny McGuffin

How does one go about capturing details about one’s life and putting it into one small blog entry? This is the question I have been asking myself for the past few years. I’ve always wanted to tell others about the amazing life tales of our clients.

Well it finally came to me a few months ago when I was fortunate enough to speak with a couple from Tennessee who recently received a loan from One Reverse Mortgage. The conversation actually started as a way to find out how their loan process went with us in hopes we could use them as an “example” for other, future clients. We like to make sure that they got everything they needed, and in turn, ask them if they would be willing to tell others.

What started as a way for them to “rate” their experience turned into an epiphany for me: We need to tell about these incredible individual’s lives so that their stories are not forgotten over time and this cannot wait any longer!

And so, I introduce to you “Life Stories”.

If you spend two hours with someone, you’re bound to find out plenty of “information” – but after my two hours with Gene and Lorene, I feel like part of their “story”. So, here goes:

Gene is 78 years young, born in Nebraska during the Great Depression. His father didn’t settle for long there and soon packed up their belongings and headed west, first to Arizona, then on to Northern California where the family bought their first home in Castro Valley/Hayward in 1939. Gene’s father worked at the shipyards.

Growing up, Gene attended Livermore High School, participated in nearly every sport (except Baseball he points out!) and served as Junior Class President. Upon graduation, Gene elected to enlist in the military and found that the quickest way to get in was through the Air Force.

In the Air Force, Gene spent 4 years in Air Traffic Control, spending time in the K-2 region of South Korea during the Korean War and helping train South Korean Air Traffic Control personnel in the K-4 region at that time as well. He ended his military career in 1956 while at the Tinker Air Force base in Oklahoma City.

After life in the military, Gene got married in 1957 and had two children, a boy and a girl and went on to school to work for the CAA (A precursor to the FAA) and become an Air Traffic Controller. He returned to Northern California to work at the Oakland Center. He worked in air traffic control until he retired in 1981, being a supervisor of two teams his last 15 years in that occupation. His marriage ended in 1959.

Lorene was born in San Jose, California, a city near the Pacific Ocean about 40 minutes southwest of Livermore. Her mother worked as an operator for the phone company and her farther was in road constructions, helping to build the majestic Highway 101 in California. He also worked on multiple regional operations within Northern California including the landing strips at Vallejo, California.

Lorene’s family moved around often to accommodate her father’s job. But to try and create a bit more stability in her life, her parents purchased a home in San Jose and enrolled Lorene in high school. Her Dad would be on the road for days at a time while the family stayed behind “at home”.

Lorene’s parents then began to design and create their dream house. Just as they were to break ground, the unthinkable happened, Lorene’s father passed away in a car accident going to work. Lorene was 14 at the time.

After many difficult years and changes in her life, Lorene graduated high school and attended San Jose College (now San Jose State University) for two years, then got married to her first husband and had her first child, Kimberlee while they lived in Livermore. The marriage ended in divorce and Lorene found herself living as a single parent with her daughter afterwards.

In 1960 Lorene worked with a woman named Nan, who introduced her to her brother, Gene. As one may say, the rest was history as Gene and Lorene were married in 1961.

I would think that the story of a married couple was more interesting before they met, but after talking with Gene and Lorene, the stories they told made me rethink that position as what they did in their married lives and even after retirement were so much more interesting.

For the next twenty years between 61 and 81 Lorene and Gene split time between Oklahoma City, OK and Livermore, CA. In Oklahoma City they purchased a house with 60 acres of land where they raised horses and cattle. Lorene worked for the United Electronics Institute as the Placement Director.

Upon returning to Livermore, they had already had land that they had purchased and built a barn with 8 stalls, all by hand, and started in the horse business showing, judging and breeding horses on the side, while both worked full time jobs. In 1978 Gene and Lorene sold their ranch in Livermore.

When Gene retired in 1981, his life plan would take them to Paris, France. Gene retired on a Friday afternoon and by Tuesday morning Lorene and Gene were in Paris. Gene got accepted to the Cordon Bleu School.

After his graduation and certification from the Cordon Bleu school, Gene and Lorene travelled back to the United States, to Oklahoma City, where Gene became an instructor at the University of Oklahoma in their Air Traffic Control program.

In 1985 they moved to Washington DC and purchased a boat where they lived across from the Naval Academy in Annapolis. They travelled down the Intercoastal waterway to the Florida Keys and then returned back to Annapolis.

They travelled around the United States in a motor home, hitting 38 of the 50 states. They settled in an Age Restricted community in Florida and found that their lifestyle was far more “free-wheeling” than the community offered to them and decided to move again. They sold their home, with all of their furniture in it, other than just their bed and travelled to Tennessee.

In 2003 Gene and Lorene finally moved into a custom built home that they both dreamed about, designing it from the ground up and getting a contractor to build it. They not only realized their own dream, but they also fulfilled the dream of Lorene’s parents who wanted to build their own dream home. This will be their 6th Christmas in their home. I can honestly tell you, I have never met people in their 70’s with so much energy and life in them as these two. I will track them down in their 90’s and get an update. I am sure that the next 15+ years will be filled with more adventure.

The one thing their reverse mortgage is allowing them is to travel to Tuscany in Italy next year. I am sure that the Italian countryside will not know what hit them when these two visit. Knowing them, I am not sure if they will leave.

It was a true honor to let them give me a window into their lives; I for one have been changed by the experience. I ended up with 8 pages of notes during our little interview, there is so much that I had to eliminate to give you this brief picture into their lives. Thank you Gene and Lorene, it was a true honor.