I’m 64 (aka Marc’s First Retirement 15 Months)

The emotional gyrations of retirement, compounded by COVID-19 pandemic, have settled out. I now have a “routine” of activities – so here is a mid-2021 update.

Our immediate family is good – Karen & I visited w my Sisters, and their families in Castro Valley & Santa Barbara in July. We played in the pool / went to the beach – 3 generations playing, talking, eating together – catching up and making memories.

Our 4 ADULT Children are all well; highlights since 2020 Holiday newsletter are the “Twins” graduated, Claudia from Loyola Marymount University (LMU) and Drew from University of Puget Sound (UPS) in May. Karen & I celebrated w Claudia and her Roommates (including families) in Los Angeles, followed a week later w Drew and his roommates (including families) in Tacoma WA. Since Tacoma had fewer pandemic restrictions all our Children, Karen’s Dad, Brother, Sister-in-Law, Nephew and my 2 Sisters joined us for a 2-day celebration at UPS.

Firewise Neighborhood
In April 2020 I became involved in a neighborhood group with the goal of increasing preparedness for a potential wildfire that could occur where we live. As many know, California and many other parts of the world have increased wildfire frequency & severity – combination of people living in forested areas, years of forest mis-management, and dry weather / climate change. Our neighborhood, which is 14 miles from San Francisco, is known for homes built into the forested hills.

Basically, we got a group of people together, met with our local fire department (Moraga Orinda Fire District – MOFD), and prepared an application to become a Firewise Neighborhood through the US National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). I wrote the application; it was submitted and approved in 6 weeks. We have a committee of neighbors, and our focus is property owner education to both “harden” homes in case of wildfire (including advice on what needs to be done and service companies who can perform the work), preparation in case of an emergency evacuation, and resource for when property owners get their homeowners insurance cancelled or premiums raised – several insurers are getting out of California due to the higher risk that insures believe is not compensated with current premiums.

Last year, in addition to working with others to communicate about these issues with neighbors, I worked closely with some nearby neighbors to clean up our properties. I helped develop scope of work for cutting down dead trees and removing brush, selected contractors, and then coordinated getting the work done. This year we continued this effort plus I helped more neighbors plan and execute lot cleaning work on their properties. In one instance I helped a family who has lived in the neighborhood for over 50 years and had not done much in the last few years due to physical disabilities. I helped them select a contractor and then checked on their 7+ acre property several times each week to both monitor progress and resolve minor issues.
I have also been trained as a Wildfire Safety Ambassador – includes a high visibility vest (I love work clothes). As an Ambassador I walk properties at an owner’s request and provide advice on how to “harden” homes such as “limbing” up trees, reducing “ladder-fuels, cutting back bushes away from homes: the intent is to make homes more defendable in case of wildfire.

One “perk” of being an Ambassador was an invitation by the MOFD to observed a prescribed (planned) burn. This exercise is used for training plus building large firebreaks in the community. The burn area was a large grassy hillside near a shopping area. The firefighters were slow and methodical building a fire break around the area; once this was completed, they ignited the tall grass at several locations resulting in a wall of fire. One firefighter said, “The difference between an arsonist and a firefighter is we get paid to light fires.”


Apartment Building
Remodel of 2 units of our 4-unit apartment building was finished in late February 2021 but not a lot of rental interest upon completion. We rented one unit in April and the second in July – both for fair rents. I was tired of working on this project by the time it wrapped up (Karen pointed out I am not a great finisher – sure miss those I have worked with in the past who would drive work to completion while I volunteered to work on something else). We started the remodel of the first one on Aug 3, 2020 and I thought it would take about 12-14 weeks. However, with numerous delays and issues that I do not want to complain about, it took 6+ months with significant overrun (fortunately supplement approval was not required, but still “painful” due to numerous comments from Karen regarding my expensive hobby). Many lessons learned including I am not a very good property manager.


This is a hobby that I do with a group of friends. We do it all from crushing the grapes to bottling. Some people ask if we crush with our feet – NO. We have all the equipment to destem the grapes, crush then using a wine press, transfer into stainless steel vats for initial treatment, transfer into oak barrels for fermentation, and then finally bottle. In normal years we bottle three varietals that results in about 300 cases of wine (100 each). We typically make Chardonnay and Primitivo (same grape as Zinfandel). In 2017 we made an excellent Petit Sirah – we are going to crush Petit Sarah again this fall.

This is not a huge time commitment – about 15-20 workdays per year. I enjoy the camaraderie and the product!

Management Coach
In 2019, before I retired, my good friend Tony asked me if I would like to help him with his office in the Bay Area – he is the Construction Manager and was moving to the General Manager (GM) role as the GM was retiring at the end of 2020. My friend asked if I would help him with business development. My answer then was no thanks – I need to be retired first before I figure out what I am going to do with the rest of my life.

In March of 2020 (after I rotated out of Kazakhstan the last time but still not retired), my good friend John (who is Tony’s boss) asked if I could help Tony with his transition to GM (he was not aware of Tony’s 2019 request). I gave John a similar answer regarding my need to figure out retirement before committing to working again. To be honest I appreciated the respect my friends had in my abilities but was unsure if I could help them. My focus was on becoming fully retired and spending more time with Karen.

And then the pandemic happened. The pandemic had a significant impact on their business – a lot of work was shut down or delayed in 2Q2020. Their business is a nation-wide Industrial Electrical and Instrument contractor – their home office is in Baton Rouge with a couple local offices including one near me in Martinez California. For background I met Tony and John when I was working for Chevron on a large fire rebuild project in the Richmond Refinery in 1999. We worked 11 months straight, 6 days a week – friendships built on completing a safe and successful rebuild of the instrument portion of a $300 MM project (aka the Burn Job).

In October 2021 we connected again – I said I was interested but not sure how much time I could commit as I was actively progressing the unit remodels of our apartment building. Both John and Tony said I could work when I was available. So, we signed a consulting agreement, and I started helping. I performed a 360 Feedback Survey of employees from the Martinez Office for Tony and helped organize the new Construction Manager selection – replacing Tony (with the selected candidate starting in January).

At the start of 2021 I helped plan and participated in the Martinez Office strategic plan meeting; purpose of the meeting is to identify the high priority improvement areas the office wants to work on over the next year. I shared facilitating duties for the meeting with a manager from Baton Rouge – it was a good way to meet many of the core Martinez Office employees. I prepared a report and organized the results into Improvement Opportunities including project frames and initial action items. Via the strategic plan and discussions with Tony we agreed my future efforts would be helping implement improvements in the following areas:

• Business Development
• Estimating
• Employee Development including Mentoring Program / Developing Leaders / Employee Motivation
• Job Descriptions / Employee Accountability
• General Manager Coaching (delegation and soft skills)

At this point I have committed to working part-time (~ 2 days/ week) through June 2022. My goal is to implement sustained improvements that support office revenue growth. Note I do not name the company I am consulting for – some friends may guess who this is. Primarily sharing that I enjoy helping others through skills and knowledge I developed over a 40 year professional career.


Last but not least (as far as Karen is concerned) is travel. As mentioned in the 2020 Holiday Letter Karen enjoys travel and was looking forward to lots of travel after my retirement. Except for a trip to New Orleans in March 2020 we did not travel for the rest of the year. So as vacation spots began opening up in 2021 we began travel again with additional plans for the rest of the year.

Palm Springs in February with Karen’s Father Dick Weisbaum (aka Papa)

Maui, Hawaii in April with our close friends Patty & Mark Thompson and Michelle & Andy Winter.
We have known these couples for 30+ years (Mark, Andy and I were friends before we met our respective spouses). We took our initial friends vacation to the Caribbean in the early 80s on a sailboat; we called our group WET (Winter Evans Thompson) Sail.

Bakersfield for 4th of July Weekend with Wet Sail.

Santa Barbara in mid-July with my 2 Sisters, Nieces and their families. Spent 3 days in an Airbnb near Alison, Graeme and Hopie Gehlen-Wingate, meeting up with Lauren, Jamie, Rose and Bea Houssain along with my Sisters Robin Gehlen and Joanne Evans. We

New Jersey, NYC, Vermont, Boston, DC in August. We started with the wedding of good friends oldest son in New Jersey, followed by a week of attractions in New York City. We picked up Claudia in Middlebury Vermont (where she finished her summer school) and went to Boston and Washington DC to see the sights and connect with a few friends.

2nd half of 2021 plans:
Paso Robles for wine tasting – early September,
Spain to help Claudia move for her new job – late September / early October
Hawaii again (Maui and Kauai) with Karen’s side of the family – November
Eastern Europe holiday – inviting our 4 Children and their significant others – December

How to Contact Me
If you would like, please contact me at marcfredevans@yahoo.com.