Diane and Jim Lestor: Retire from Your Job; But Never Retire Your Mind

by Robert Marlin

Asking Jim Lestor about life in retirement, he interrupted immediately, “I have a different term for you, rewirement,” He then explained what the term he made up meant, “When you finally make the decision to quit working, you are shifting gears and getting on with the next chapter in your life. To do that, you must make plans, and that means making a change in your thinking—you have to rewire your brain to approach life differently.”

He says the idea is not necessarily original. It was a concept he developed by watching others. “While I was still working, I carefully watched what friends were doing who had retired before I did. The biggest thing I noticed was those who seemed the happiest still had a purpose, something they had thought about in advance. For some, it was a hobby they enjoyed; or another career that was unrelated to what they had spent their working life doing. My friends who were happy seemed to be fully engaged. The ones that were unhappy had not given much thought about what the next chapter of their lives would be. They were just existing, drifting through life without finding any fulfillment. My advice to anyone about to retire is to think through what you want to accomplish, and then make a plan to reach those new goals.”

That he would have such a philosophical outlook on retirement came as a surprise. Although, considering his background in insurance sales, it is perfectly logical. He spent his career helping other people make plans and prepare for their future. He has a methodical nature, developed from a lifetime working in insurance sales, that most likely led to his tendency to compartmentalize every aspect of his life. “I have three buckets: Meditation and Ministry; Movement; and Mind and Education,” Jim explains. 

To explain exactly what his three buckets mean, he gives explicit examples, “I married my very best friend, Diane, and we have spent more than fifty years traveling and having adventures together. When we settled into rewirement, we both decided that daily meditation, mornings and evening, was important for our spiritual well-being.” Throughout their marriage, the couple attended retreats, sometimes together and sometimes separately. These one- or two-week-long retreats provided them with training in pastoral care and prepared them for ministering to people who were unable to attend regular church services. Working with a pastor or assistant pastor, they would visit shut-ins, and in particular, spent time with seniors who may have had left-brain strokes or suffered from some degree of dementia. “Regular meditation impacts one’s ability to cope. Sharing time with those who cannot get out is a special kind of ministry that is quite fulfilling. I cannot think of a better activity than sharing God’s word with others.”

The second bucket, Movement, deals ultimately with maintaining physical well-being. “I have a daily exercise routine, a rowing machine and spin cycle. Typically, I spend half an hour every morning and evening working out,” Jim says. Another activity, almost a ritual, is taking forced-walks in a heavily forested area around East Lake Tyler with their dog, Luna. “Physical activity that pushes me to the limits has always been part of my way to keep in shape. I love water skiing and have a friend who lets me ski behind his boat. I have a boat, too; but it’s a high-speed boat and my friend rides with me.” Jim confesses that he enjoys doing daring things, including driving with as much speed as possible (legally). “I’ve taken the BMW driving course several times and had the opportunity to take a spin on the Nürburgring in Germany. In fact, I bought a car from Jim Teeter at BMW of Tyler that I drive all around town,” Jim says, emphasizing that he is “speed ticket free!”

The third bucket is Mind and Education. “It is very significant to keep one’s mind active. Education is one of the most important things we have been involved in since rewirement,” Jim reports. He and Diane were both involved with the TJC Promise Program since its inception. Jim is now serving on the TJC Board of Directors, specifically to report on the progress of the TJC Promise Program, which he refers to as “an amazing thing that affects the lives of so many area students and guarantees them a rewarding future through education.” Jim’s spare time is spent reading. “I have a friend from California who sends newspaper clippings once a month, always on subjects he knows I’m interested in. Another friend and I trade books back and forth, mostly historical novels.
And yet another friend, who shares my 

interest in psychology and spiritual mysticism, recommends books that we both read and then discuss.” For his own personal edification, Jim enrolled in a four-year curriculum pertaining to education for the ministry, which he will complete in 2025. “I didn’t do it to become a preacher, just for my personal improvement. During the four-year course, we will study the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Then, we will learn about the culture and development of Christianity. During the fourth year of this study, I plan to develop my own personal theology. Not only will this course expand my knowledge about what I consider to be a very important subject, it will also help to keep my mind sharp and active.”

Diane grew up in Houston. She visited Tyler as a teenager when her father brought the family there on vacations or when he had business in the area. “I remember that I always liked Tyler, and I think I always kept my memories of Tyler in the back of mind,” Diane says. After she graduated from the University of Houston, Diane was hired as a flight attendant by American Airlines in 1968, and remained on the job for thirty-five years, until her retirement in 2003. It was not long after she began her airline career that Diane met Jim. They became good friends, almost instantly, and were married not long after. “During the years we were both working, I sometimes wondered how I managed to have time to work as a flight attendant. Our home life was always so busy. At one point, we were raising five horses and had four or five dogs, and we always made time to travel together.”

The couple spent twenty-five years living in San Diego, California, which is where they were living when they began raising horses. “Jim got interested in endurance riding. Those are events that frequently require the rider to be on horseback for fifty miles at a stretch. Jim once did one-hundred miles in a single day on horseback.” After Diane retired, they were getting tired of the Southern California weather, which is always the same. “We missed the rain and lightning storms. There was no change of seasons in San Diego. In 2004, we decided to make another change and we moved to Minneapolis, which is where Jim had grown up.”

The Lestors were amused how the people they met in Minnesota were surprised that a couple from Southern California had decided to move up north. “I had never lived in a cold climate before,” Diane explains, “and for me, it was a really neat place to live. I loved the people and I loved living on the lake. There are thousands of lakes in Minnesota and it is actually one of prettiest places I’ve ever been.” Living in Minnesota allowed the Lestors to enjoy the changing seasons throughout the year, something they had missed so much while living in California. “Because I had grown up there, the cold winters were not a surprise for me. Diane, however, had never lived in a cold climate and it was definitely a different experience for her,” Jim says.

About the time that Jim decided to retire, Minnesota’s hard winters started taking a toll on both Jim and Diane. “Dealing with the ice and snow was getting to be too much for either of us to handle. We decided we wanted to look farther south for a place to retire. Texas was always at the top of our list, because we both were familiar with Texas and liked the weather, especially in the northeast part of the state, which has mild winters but doesn’t have the humidity like Houston. We happened to be in Tyler for a wedding, and that’s when we started looking around that area in earnest. I remembered how much I had liked Tyler from my childhood visits, and I think that was one of the reasons for seriously considering Tyler as a place to settle down. We found a great location on Lake Tyler, which reminded us of how much we love water skiing and how much we had enjoyed living on the lake in Minnesota,” Diane recalls. “We really liked Tyler and the people we met here. It is big enough to have all the amenities we want, like medical care and good restaurants, but it is small enough to give us the relaxed lifestyle we both enjoy. And it is close to DFW Airport, which makes traveling wherever we want to go so much easier.” 

Traveling has always been a priority for the Lestors, and Diane working for the airline was a bonus in terms of traveling. “We have been fortunate to see most of the world, certainly every place we wanted to see,” says Diane. Jim enthusiastically exclaims, “I have two places on earth that I count as my favorite places—and it just happens that we have been to both places, twice—the Poles! The Arctic and Antarctica are both amazing places, and they are destinations that few people have visited.” Diane is less enthusiastic about the polar regions. “Jim likes the clean air and pristineness of the Poles. He is more interested in going into the wilderness and testing his endurance. I don’t necessarily share that same view. I am more interested in lifestyles; the culture and history of the places we visit. However, we have both made seeing the places the other one wants to see an equal priority. We have succeeded in seeing much of the world. Much more than most people ever have the opportunity to see. We are both grateful for that.”

Diane says she is not as organized as Jim. “While I agree with his bucket lists, I am much lazier than he is. It’s good to have Jim there to motivate me to get out of bed every morning,” she says with a laugh. The Lestors never had children, and they both are perfectly okay with that. “We were so busy with working, and the various projects and activities we were involved in, that having children was not something we did. We enjoy listening to our friends telling us about their children and grandchildren, but it was never anything we needed,” says Diane. Since going into rewirement, Diane has joined a couple of  women’s clubs and recently completed a Master Gardner Class. “One thing that was interesting about the gardening class was the requirement to volunteer fifty hours as an intern working at Tyler Rose Garden. In the midst of accumulating volunteer hours, I was able to meet many other people who share an interest in gardening. So, it has been a rewarding experience.”

“Speaking of volunteering,” Jim interjects, “when people find out you are a retiree, it is almost like there is a great big ‘V’ tattooed on your forehead. Every worthy cause, of which there are many in Tyler, has something significant to get involved in.” That is not a complaint, but an observation on Jim’s part. He is actually happy that there are so many opportunities to volunteer his time. For Jim, that gets back to his point about having worthwhile activities to fill his days. Donating time to worthy causes is another form of ministry, which is very important to both Jim and Diane. “The shutdown cut out everyone’s travel plans. But in the midst of the pandemic, the need for volunteers increased dramatically for almost every philanthropic organization in Tyler,” Jim commented. “Now that things are opening up again, we have been making our plans to travel again.” 

When the Lestors plan their trips, they are now typically longer journeys. They both agree that half the fun of travel is deciding where they want to go and planning how they will get there and what they want to see once they arrive. Researching the points-of-interest and the history of a proposed destination is a major part of their planning process. “We fly once and then spend most of the trips on cruises,” Diane explains. An example of a typical travel plan is taking several separate cruises, for instance going through the Mediterranean exploring the Greek islands; or a trip on the Baltic Sea, around Norway and through the fjords of the Scandinavian countries. “We made several thirty-day cruises like that. The first time we made such a trip, we didn’t think we could be on a ship for thirty days at a stretch. We thought it would be too confining. But the reality is, the ship becomes like a floating hotel that docks at a destination where we can make day trips and explore the region and meet the people. It’s a fun experience and you meet plenty of interesting people who are traveling with you,” Diane says. 

Other destinations the Lestors have visited include a thirty-day cruise originating from Fort Lauderdale in Florida, through the Caribbean, to South America. They also made an excursion beginning in New Zealand and sailing to Indonesia and then on to Singapore. A planned trip will take them through the Bering Strait to Russia, and then a visit to the Kodiak Islands, to Anchorage, Alaska, and then finally to Vancouver. According to Diane, these longer trips are interesting because there is so much to see and so many different cultures to encounter. Now that things are opening up again, Diane is planning a trip with her sister to Africa for next year. They are planning to spend Christmas in Brussels this year, and then will follow-up with a trip to Japan next April.

Rewirement is giving the Lestors a retirement that is fulfilling on several levels. They continue to expand their spiritual life. They are constantly educating themselves about a multitude of subjects. They are keeping themselves busy with worthwhile projects, ranging from gardening to developing personal relationships with new people and friends they have made in Tyler. They are involved with the community, from their ministerial relationships with shut-ins to their commitment to serving on boards and committees of various philanthropic groups to the educational outreach from their involvement with the TJC Promise Program. As Jim expresses his theory of rewirement instead of retirement, the Lestors are not withdrawing from life, “We are living every day to the fullest that we can. Our days are never the same. Every day is a new adventure. We are busy every day, spending our time doing something worthwhile and engaging; expanding our knowledge, improving our spiritual life, and most importantly, enjoying our time together. We are enjoying the lives we have been given and are sharing our time together. We are best friends, moving forward every day, together; just as we have for more than fifty years!”