Who says inspiration and success have a cut-off date? Certainly nor these for achievers, for whom age and “seasoning” were not barriers, but rather contributors to their success.
The fast food icon Harland Sanders began modestly building his Kentucky Fried Chicken empire at age 40. His father died when he was just six, and cooking duties fell on him while his mother worked. He was a seventh grade school dropout, solider, steamboat pilot, insurance salesman and railroad fireman (among other jobs) until his cooking skills again proved useful.
In 1930, Sanders opened a gas station, in the back of which he operated a tiny lunchroom. People loved his food so much that in 1937 he built a 142-seat Sanders’ cafe- popular for its fried chicken. He created his “secret recipe,” sped up cooking with a pressure fryer, and later developed his personal brand of white suit, string tie, and goatee. A fire and an interstate highway both conspired to destroy his business.
He had his big idea at 66” Franchising. He traveled across the U.S. and Canada striking deals with restaurants that paid him a nickel for every chicken sold.
In 1964, at age 74, he sold his 600-franchise U.S. operation for 2 million, continued as a paid spokesman and operated his Canadian franchise business. Sanders was the KFC spokesman until he died in 1980 at age 90, but not before he established charitable trusts that continue to aid charities and find scholarships in the amount of $1 million per year.
Anna Mary Robertson earned fame for her folksy paintings and the “Grandma Moses” name because she began painting seriously at age 67. She was a self-taught “primitive artist” whose positive emotions projected from the work more than technical skill or sophistication. Her charming- and powerful- painting evoked simple joy.
Born in 1860, she grew up and worked on her family’s farm, and regularly draw scenes on paper, inspired by her happy rural life. After her husband Thomas Moses died, Anna Mary retired and began painting in earnest. In 1938, she was discovered by an art collector who, seeing her work displayed in a drug store window, bought all her paintings. In 1939, three paintings made it into a show at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. A one-woman show in 1940 followed, and by 1943, the demand for her work was phenomenal.
By the time of her death at 101, Grandma Moses was one of the most famous American artists and the subject of TV interviews, docu-dramas and magazine covers. Presidents honored her with awards. Greeting card company Hallmark eventually sold over 100 million “Grandma Moses” cars. Her talent, unassuming manner and desire to make a productive contribution at an old age proved “it’s never too late.”
Missionary Evelyn Brand was another for whom age did not matter. She began serving in India with her husband at a young age. After his death, she continued on, ministering to rural villagers scattered over five mountain ranges.
She never stood still, even at age 75. Her exuberance for service was that of someone half her age. One day, she broke her hip and had to be carried down a mountainside by stretcher, then driven 150 bone-jarring miles to the nearest hospital. When her doctor son arrived to help, he was too late- she was walking with the aid of two canes, riding a pony to outlying villages, and ignoring all the advice for retirement rest.
She served for another 20 years, despite tropical diseases, concussions, and fractures from falls off her pony. Tireless, she was 93 when she traded in her pony for a stretcher manned by devoted Indians. She was still traveling from village to village when she dies at age 95.
For Evelyn, heart and spirit triumphed over age and physical condition.
She pioneered the TV cooking show, and did more to promote French cuisine int he U.S. more than anyone- beginning at age 49. During WWII, she served abroad as a file clerk where she met her husband Paul Child, who introduced her to cooking. Julia developed her love of French food when Paul, who served in the Foreign Service, was assigned to Paris.She studied at Cordon Bleu cooking school, established a cooking school with two fellow students and began writing a cook book .
After moving to Cambridge, MA in 1961, Julia published Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Recognized as an expert, she began writing cooking articles widely and launched a weekly TV show, The French Chef, in 1963 which became an even bigger hit than her book.
Her knowledge, off-beat style, sense of humor and flair for teaching contributed to the long list of books, TV shows, guest appearances and magazine columns right through the 1980s when Julia was in her 70s. Even though ehr husband suffered a stroke in 1989 and dies in 1994, Julia’s output remained remarkable even in her 80s. Widely recognized, she was elected to the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame and received France’s Legion d’Honneur. Her famous Cambridge home kitchen became an exhibit at the National Museum of American History.
For four decades, she demonstrated how “doing what you love” could become a career at any age.
To those of us who serve at ACRC, it’s gratifying to observe firsthand dozens of stories lives among residents who, though not as highly publicized or celebrated as those above, are noteworthy in themselves. In our midst are writers, painters, missionaries, and other noble achievers whose accomplishments in later years are a quiet testimony to t