Not so retired
by Coorie-Beth Hendon
Jul 06, 2012 | 5138 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kerry and Diane Sartain, a retired Jasper couple, have spent their retirement traveling in a variety of ways. Above, they pose for a photo while skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Photo Special to the Eagle
Kerry and Diane Sartain, a retired Jasper couple, have spent their retirement traveling in a variety of ways. Above, they pose for a photo while skiing in the Rocky Mountains. Photo Special to the Eagle
Though for many the term “retirement” conjures up thoughts of long days of fishing, shuffleboard, or bridge club, Jasper residents Kerry and Diane Sartain are challenging the stereotypical definition of retirement, giving new life to the term with a lifestyle active enough to make the average nine-to-fiver blush.

The couple has been retired for 12 years, both leaving careers in education. Since then, they have lived vivaciously, filling their days with business ventures, hobbies, service projects and adventurous trips around the globe.

Though they do not work full time in the school system anymore, the Sartains have found plenty of work to replace the time they used to spend in school. They enjoy owning and running a small but thriving framing business from their home. A small building to the side of their house serves as their workplace, showcasing many of their finished products, as well as some works in progress. Pointing to a multi-layered matting around a photograph, Kerry Sartain remarked, “this is my favorite part of the framing business. It gives me a creative outlet.”

The Sartains also work together to tend to a number of bee hives, from which they gather and sell the honey produced by the bees. The couple said gentle spirits and easy-going attitudes help make their work and home blend together without conflicts or trouble.

Entrepreneurial endeavors make up only half of the pursuits at the Sartains’ home. At the entrance to their driveway, visitors are greeted by a large garden overflowing with corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and muscadines, just to name a few. A walk around the side of the house reveals two tidy rows of blueberry bushes, ripe for the picking. Tired out by the fact that both of their parents faithfully kept a large garden when they were growing up, the couple swore at the beginning of their marriage that they would never keep one of their own.

“After the first year, I just couldn’t stand it,” Kerry Sartain said with a smile and a shake of his head, admitting that they have kept one just as faithfully ever since.

Perhaps the trait which distinguishes the Sartains most from the average retired couple is their love of travel and adventure. Their collective memory could undoubtedly fill many pages with stories of the terrifying, beautiful and unbelievable things they have seen on their journeys.

While reminiscing about their shared interest in scuba diving, Kerry Sartain recalled being dangerously close to a 7-foot-long Barracuda. Diane Sartain laughed about the time when, running out of air in their tanks, they were forced to swim toward what they believed to be a shark in order to reach the surface for air. They survived both encounters, and laugh about them now as if they were all just part of the adventure.

Together the couple has panned for gold — successfully! — in Alaska, learned to hula from the locals in Hawaii and skied slopes all the way from Mentone to North Carolina and West Virginia, and, finally, to giant Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

The Sartains do not plan to stop searching the world for new adventures any time soon. Their next expedition will lead them to the green country of Ireland — a tribute to Kerry Sartain’s late mother, who never got to realize her life-long dream of travelling to Ireland.

Many of the Sartains’ travels go deeper than pure enjoyment. Every year since 1982, the couple has participated in church mission trips to help people in need. Diane Sartain claimed she was greatly influenced by her father, who set an example of self sacrifice for the benefit of others by participating in mission trips until his death. Upon his death, she recalled telling her husband, “My dad went on a mission trip every year and I’d like to do that too.”

In recent years, the couple has travelled to the small town of Wewahitchka, Fla., to help rebuild the grounds of a childrens’ home after it was destroyed by fire. Most recently, they traveled to Phil Campbell on a construction trip to help rebuild a church which was destroyed by the April 27, 2011, tornadoes that swept through north Alabama.

Kerry and Diane Sartain said they make the most of their time, nurturing their family businesses and projects, travelling to new places, and giving of their time to serve their own and other communities.

The couple showcases their many talents, and their energy never seems to cease flowing. The couple call themselves retired, but defy the definition of the word every day they live.

Retirement, for the Sartains, is no such thing.