Thursday, December 10, 2009

Magalia couple fulfills their "bucket list"


At first glance the book looks like some kind of financial planning guide. But "The Pursuit of Happiness In Retirement: Outrunning the Reaper" ($12.95 in paperback from Cold Tree Press) by Harry and Norma Jean Pendery is something else entirely. "This book," writes Harry, "is about our choices to spend our free retirement time with as many memories as we can amass until the bell tolls." (The volume is available at Lyon Books in Chico and directly from the authors at

Retirement came somewhat abruptly. "Norma Jean and I had a comfortable family medical practice," Harry says, where he was the attending physician. Then Harry found he had "cardiomyopathy with congestive heart failure. The arteries were normal, but much of the muscle was irreparably damaged. . . . Yes, there is treatment, but the prognosis (natural history) was grim--50 percent mortality in five years."

So Harry began to formulate his "bucket list." He wanted to see old friends and say goodbye. He is also a history aficionado, so "my second goal was to visit the landmarks and feel the pain of the War between the States to try to grasp for myself how such tragedy could occur." Finally, with fishing in his blood, "my goal was to fish for, and catch, every species of fish in the North American continent and in the adjacent seas."

Eight years later the couple has returned home, "our missions completed!" The book is a chronicle of those years, told mostly by Harry (with some insightful asides by Norma Jean) in an easy, conversational style.

On a lark, they bought at auction a "twenty-eight-foot, twin-engine Bayliner, with galley and sleeping for six" for $700. Little did they know why the craft went so cheaply. A friend noted, "a boat is a hole in the water, into which you pour money." The couple formed plenty of new friendships along the way in travels from coast to coast and into Mexico and Canada. They learned to eat soft-shell crabs whole ("body, legs, all") and survived a three-hour lightning and hail storm in Texas.

Throughout the years the couple's motto is to "care about and cherish others." "We are still outrunning the grim reaper," Harry writes, and their journeys are not yet finished.

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