“We have two things to say,” Jim announces. “One, we laugh a lot. And, two, after 64 years together, we are still each other’s best friend.”
And what resonates between them echoes outward, as their laughter and friendliness touch everyone around them.
“You can’t believe all the wonderful people who live and work at Touchmark,” says Helen. “Everybody is so great. It is a very wonderful atmosphere here.”
Sharing rich and interesting backgrounds
Helen was born in Fargo, ND, then spent most of her childhood in Minnesota, going through the Moorehead public school system. In 1947, she graduated from the School of Chemistry at North Dakota Agricultural College (now NDSU). Then she entered Purdue University to pursue her master’s degree.
Jim was born and raised in Indianapolis, Ind. Soon after high school, he went into the Navy, enrolling in Radio Technician Radar School. In 1946, Jim entered Purdue University. He started out in Electrical Engineering but ended up with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. He then went on to get his master’s and PhD in Physiology and Pharmacology.
Meanwhile, working on her master’s in chemistry, Helen met Jim. There must have been more than a little chemistry between them.
“We met at a football rally,” Jim remembers. “I walked right up to Helen, took her hand, and told her I was Jim. She told me she was Helen, and that started our relationship!” Jim and Helen both laugh heartily at the recollection. “It wasn’t like either one of us to act like that.”
It may have been a bit out of character for a couple of scientists, but the formula seemed to work. Helen and Jim married in 1950.
Supporting family and careers
“I never finished my master’s program,” says Helen. “After the war, with everyone returning home, I couldn’t renew my graduate assistant’s program, so I went into educational psychology.”
Jim chimes in, “Helen put me through my PhD program by working in a veterinary school as a lab technician.”
After that, Helen shifted her focus to making a home and raising their daughter and two sons. Once the children were in school, she taught high school chemistry for more than eight years.
After Jim finished his PhD at Purdue in 1954, he joined Armour Pharmaceutical Company, working as a drug researcher for 32 years. Among his many successes, he helped lead the development of the first drug to relieve chronic pain caused by Paget’s disease of the bone.
When Jim retired in 1986, he continued doing consulting work with Armour and then with a Japanese company until 2000.
A passion for technology
Helen and Jim are fondly referred to as “early adopters” as they actively seek out the leading edge of technology.
Helen recently found herself one of only 100 people in the world who has an OrCam for home use. It is a tiny, smart camera for visually impaired people. Mounted to her glasses, her OrCam “sees” the book or newspaper page she is holding then orally “reads” it to her.
“Jim read about it in the New York Times before it was even available on the U.S. market,” Helen recalls. “We immediately got on a waiting list.”
When not using her OrCam, Helen is often on her iPad. She reads books on it, watches news programs, and looks up recipes. “You can find almost anything on an iPad.” She also uses it to keep track of her family— including their two great grandsons—on Facebook.
With wide-ranging interests, Jim has always been an inventor on the side. For instance, in 1967, he patented the first roller paint machine. More recently, he patented a new hold-bar attachment for treadmills. “I’ve made hundreds of inventions over the years,” Jim says, “but often found out someone else had beat me to the patent.”
Jim recently launched a new business. “I’m fully occupied with it,” he says. “I’m a true, honest-to-goodness, livewire entrepreneur … it’s exciting!”
In fact, Jim is completely absorbed with manufacturing and selling his latest invention: a device that “magically” attaches a cell phone to your arm or waist—on the outside of your clothing—via a strong magnet. “I have a minifactory and hundreds of products all ready to sell. It’s a 24-hour business.”
The business means Jim doesn’t have time to bake his famous cinnamon-craison bread anymore; however, he was recently elected to the Touchmark Resident Council. “I consider this a great honor, and it’s a lot of fun.”
Continuing their full lives
Moving to Touchmark has been a natural continuation of Helen and Jim’s full lives. What they enjoy most is the many opportunities for social interaction just beyond their front door.
“It’s so interesting to sit down and talk with any of these people,” says Jim. “Many of them were top in their fields. It’s unbelievable!”
“Such interesting stories!” adds Helen. “From farming stories to WWII pilots getting shot down!”
Other enjoyable activities are walking their miniature poodle Lucy and keeping close tabs on their great grandchildren. And laughing. “Yes, you could say laughter is our philosophy of life!”