A Retirement Worth a Thousand Words

It's never too late to start a new chapter of your life. Find out how TCDRS retirees Loren and Barbara Kelly are spending their retirement putting pen to paper.

Story by John Martin


TCDRS retirees Loren and Barbara Kelly first met in 1980 on a country dance floor in Oklahoma. When they first danced together, “it was like electricity,” says Loren. They’ve since been married for 42 years and both spent their careers working for TCDRS-participating employers.

Loren’s retirement began exactly as he planned. After 39 years of working in criminal justice, he knew it was time to retire. He and Barbara — who earned 30 years of service as a juvenile court recorder — retired from Dallas County on the same day in 2016.

Barbara wasn’t as certain as Loren about timing. “Loren asked me to let him know when I was ready to retire, and I didn’t think I was ready,” Barbara says. “Then, I woke up one morning and thought, ‘I think I’m ready!’”

Chapter One

Traveling has become one of the couple’s favorite retirement activities. Together, they have visited Ireland, Switzerland, France, Italy, Canada and Hawaii, and have taken a bus tour of some of the national parks. "We never would have been able to visit those places without the retirement that we both have from Dallas County,” Barbara says. “We have made memories that most people only dream of.”

Left: Loren and Barbara with one of Loren’s published books. Right: Loren with author Billy Keane.

On their first international trip in retirement, Loren and Barbara decided to visit Ireland, as that’s where their ancestors are from. “We visited John Keane’s (a famous Irish playwright and author) pub, and we were listening to his son, Billy Keane, a great storyteller,” Loren says. “I was amazed, and I thought, ‘I could do that. Maybe I should start writing again.’”

Loren had also been volunteering at the Royse City Texas Cultural Arts Committee, and the head librarian encouraged him to meet with a six-time published author. She told Loren he had a way with words and encouraged him to write, and with that, he decided to pick up the pen for the first time since attending college in the 70s.

Loren and Barbara have always been avid readers, with Loren preferring science fiction and historical novels, and Barbara leaning towards mystery, romance and biographies. “When I was a kid, the only thing I did was read books,” Barbara says.

“Reading is a foundation for everything,” Loren adds.

Loren published his first novel at 68 years of age. Black Gold, Roughnecks and Oil Town Tales tells the story of his father’s oilfield ancestors.

Over the next two years, he published two more books, drawing inspiration from his family’s genealogy and interest in history. In Delaware Moor Epitaphs, Loren uncovers a family secret, and in Twilight Pathways & Recollections… A Texas Bard’s Poetry and Memoirs, he shares a collection of poetry and memoirs from his life.

He has also published other poems and short stories, and was a finalist for short-form non-fiction at the Ageless Authors writing contest in 2020.

Chapter Two

As Loren rediscovered his love for writing, Barbara, too, began putting pen to paper. They both joined the Silver Leos Writers Guild (SLWG) at Texas A&M Commerce, and Barbara rediscovered her talent for poetry.

“The first time I ever wrote a poem was in high school, and the teacher really liked it,” Barbara says. “I did some off and on, but never really got into it until I wrote a poem for a weight-loss program I was a part of, and I really enjoyed it. I mostly write about my family and my country.”

One of Barbara’s poems, Just the Two of Us, is named after the day she and Loren met and fell in love. It alludes to the song by Bill Withers and Grover Washington Jr., also titled “Just the Two of Us,” which has become a special song in the couple’s relationship.

They’ve since been published together in the Silver Leos Writers Guild Anthology. So far, the anthology has accepted two of Loren’s short stories and one poem, and three of Barbara’s poems.

Chapter Three

Loren and Barbara with Loren’s books. Photo by John Martin

Loren’s most recent undertaking is a short science-fiction and fantasy novel, Shadow Earth… A Science Fantasy. “My dad was the one that got me into reading,” Loren says. “Even though he only had a 5th grade education, he knew the value of education and was a big fan of astronomy. I dedicated my science fantasy novel to him.”

Well-accustomed to finding storylines in the past, Loren says creating a work of fiction was challenging in different ways. Not only did he have to build a storyline and characters of his own, but he had to put the science in science fantasy. “The science part has to be accurate, so I had to do a lot of research on that,” he says.

A decade ago, Loren hardly considered himself a writer and a storyteller, but a few gentle nudges in the right direction from Barbara and others, and a willingness to embark on a new adventure has opened his life to a world of new experiences.

“Find something that you enjoy, which gives you a sense of purpose and just do it,” Loren says. “If you always wanted to write that book or start a business, there is no time like the present. You are never too young or too old to accomplish anything.”

Barbara seconds that sentiment, which is good because in addition to writing, Barbara dedicates much of her time and energy to her grandkids. “I plan annual Easter egg hunts for them, as well as Halloween parties complete with carnival type games and food,” she says.

Growing up, Barbara was only able to meet one of her grandparents, and he lived far away from her family. "I love that I get to make memories with them and the special bond that we have," she says.


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