soundcite

Colorado Savvy Seniors is all about living the “second half” of your life to the fullest. Dr. Ronald Wemple MD, PhD. of Fort Collins CO, exemplifies this lifestyle. He raised his family while working as an Associate Professor and Medical Doctor at Colorado State University and then retired and found new adventures everywhere he looked.

I sat down with Dr. Wemple and asked him to share his story with Colorado Savvy Seniors.

(Hint: To access the expanded embedded audio within in the interview, a desktop computer with the latest browser installed is recommended)

The First Half

Tell us about where you grew up.

Dr. Wemple: I was born in Rockford, Illinois in 1928, and at that time, Rockford was more or less a suburb of Stockholm, it was very Swedish; my mother is Swedish, her parents were immigrants from Sweden.

And where did you attend college?

Dr. Wemple: I went to Northwestern University and received a degree in mechanical engineering and then to the University of Chicago for medical school.

Why did you decide to go onto medical school after getting your mechanical engineering degree?

Dr. Wemple: So why did I do that, I don’t know. I look back on it as probably a mistake. I never cared much for medicine. The only good thing that came out of going to the University of Chicago was, that’s where I met Anita [Anita Holte, Dr. Wemple’s wife and mother of his four children].

After completing his residency in Minneapolis, Dr. Wemple served on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana with the Public Health Service. In the fall of 1965, he returned to Northwestern and earned a masters in bio-engineering and a PhD. in Civil Engineering.

When did you move to Colorado and what brought you here?

Dr. Wemple: We moved here in August of ’69. We came here because I was offered a job here in the mechanical engineering department at CSU. But it wasn’t successful. I couldn’t get any money to do research and I had offers to go to other universities but I said, “The hell with it”, and stayed here.

You liked Colorado!

Yeah, and my family did too, children all had friends, so we stayed here and I went and worked at the student health service [at CSU] until I retired in ’87.

Before he would finish his eighteen year career at CSU, Dr. Wemple lost his wife, Anita, to cancer and saw his children grow up and move out. Retiring at the age of 59, he was ready to begin a new chapter in his life.

The Second Half

Did you have plans for your retirement?

Dr. Wemple: No, I didn’t. I was kind of looking for some activity and this computer stuff has really given me something to do in my old age, because I work on it every day.

Dr. Wemple was referring to a couple of computer programs he continues to develop, one for his son’s environmental and drilling business and another program which analyzes the human heart and aorta functions.

You mentioned that you were working with a former student of yours on a program for the human heart. Can you tell us a little about that?

Dr. Wemple: One of the students I had in the mechanical engineering [program]…he went on to get a PhD. His master’s degree was using what I did my dissertation to make a mathematical model of the aorta…and he added a mathematical heart to it. But we’re doing a much more sophisticated version of the heart…maybe we’ll discover something that’s worthwhile…we’re thinking we’ll have it published eventually.

Later, Dr. Wemple demonstrated how the program works, and as a software developer myself, I have to say I was more than impressed with what he has developed.

Bike Tour

Taken on a bicycle tour of Scandinavia in 2013, Dr. Ron Wemple poses for a picture in the town of Karlskrona, Sweden with his bike fully loaded for the several hundred mile journey.

Writing software programs is not the only way Dr. Wemple is spending his retirement. He is also an avid traveler who has circled the globe numerous times. Don’t, however, expect to find him riding on a tour bus with fifty other travelers or staying in posh hotels that cater to wealthy tourists. Instead, you’re more likely to find him sleeping in a cozy pup tent along a busy bike path. I was, therefore, anxious to ask him about his exploits and he didn’t disappoint.

Tell us a little about your travels.

Dr. Wemple: Well, in ‘83 I went to Australia and New Zealand with Bryce [his youngest son]. ‘84 I went to Pakistan as doctor of a mountaineering exposition. It was for Gasherbrum IV, which is just under 8000 meters [26,000 ft.]…it was very close to K2, and one day with our leader, and we had to have a Pakistani military officer with us because we’re right near the Chinese border, and we walked up to the K2 base camp one day. And then, in ’86, I backpacked around the world by myself.

Dr. Wemple then began to describe one of the longest treks he’s made since retiring. In 1988, he embarked on a four and a half month adventure, departing Fort Collins for the southernmost tip of South America in Tierra del Fuego. He employed just about every mode of transportation you can imagine, including plane, train, bus, freighter ship, dugout canoe, even hitchhiking along the way. At times he was with companions while at other times he ventured along his route alone. What made this experience even more impressive, was the fact that he had recently undergone surgery and made the entire trip on crutches.

In 1992, he met his second wife, Marian Weisser, and together they traveled extensively, including trips to England, Russia, South America and India.

Tell us about meeting your wife Marian.

Dr. Wemple: I had met Marian a couple times on mountain club or International Center Ski trips and stuff and hikes, so I knew her and in probably April of ’92, I was at my friend’s house for his birthday, and Marian called (she wasn’t there), and said she had two tickets to the Larimer Choral, is there anyone there that would like to go? Well my wife was one of the founders of the Larimer Choral, Anita, so I said, “I’ll go.” So I went with Marian. Marian always said she didn’t know if it was a date or not.

In 2012, Dr. Wemple lost Marion to cancer, and during the interview he asked and answered a simple question about outliving his two beloved wives.

Dr. Wemple: Two good wives and they both died. Wouldn’t you call that bad luck? Very bad luck.

But Dr. Wemple is a man with a positive outlook on life. Our interview was filled with laughter and smiles. He enjoys spending time with his four children, seven grandchildren and fifteen great grandkids. He continues to write software and who knows; perhaps through his unquenchable thirst for knowledge, he will discover new information yet unknown about the human heart. I certainly would not bet against him!

I asked him what his plans were for the future:

Dr. Wemple: With luck, I’ll do another [European bicycle tour] in 2015.

Skiing

Dr. Wemple stays in shape in the winter by cross country skiing. He said while most people prefer the trails, he likes to blaze his own trails.

He will be 87 years old next year, so I had to ask how he has kept in such great shape:

Dr. Wemple: I worked 18 years at CSU, it was a mile and a half to my job, and I never once had a parking sticker. I walked and biked for 18 years. And I’ve been doing water aerobics with the ladies for eleven years now. 95% of the time, I’m the only man.

I asked if it was a great place for a single man to meet women, and our interview ended with laughter.