‘Life is a journey. You just gotta keep moving’ – The Morning Call

The tables in Professor Rachael Gorchov’s class were covered with everything you would expect from a painting class: paints and palettes, brushes and papers.

Conrad Richebacher had something else in his workspace Wednesday morning – his cane.

Richebacher, 76, plans to complete her associate’s degree in fine arts at Northampton Community College this spring.

“I’m making the most of life,” he said, speaking in the student center as students five decades younger jostled for the cafeteria.

Richebacher de Roseto has always enjoyed creating and learning. His career was in architecture. While working, he broadened his skills by taking photography classes at CNC. Four or five years ago, he took jewelry courses there.

About three years ago, he really took the plunge. His friends started dying, going to nursing homes and not caring anymore. He himself had a health scare that included brain surgery. While in hospital, he said he felt a “presence”.

“It was something very real,” recalls Richebacher. “It said there was still something I needed to do.”

He wasn’t sure what it was, if he was meant to mentor others or if it was something else. But he felt a strong desire to spend more time learning. He therefore returned to CNC.

“I’m going to study with young children,” he thought. “They’re not going to die for me.”

The age gap between him and the five other students at his painting class table doesn’t bother him. In fact, he “sort of absorbs some of the energy” of the young people around him.

“It makes no difference, especially in the artistic profession,” Richebacher said. “Creativity, the excitement of art overcomes everything.”

He has a lot of respect for this generation, especially for his inclusive attitude regarding race, gender and age. The students open the doors and pull out the chairs for him.

He encourages them to pursue their dreams now because you never know what tomorrow will bring.

“My fellow students are here to figure out what they’re going to do with the rest of their lives,” Richebacher said. “I had my life. I’m here because that’s what I want to do now.

While graduating, he attends NCC for the experience: “Paper is the least important thing. These experiences included two class trips abroad, to Paris and Egypt.

Richebacher bartered a cane in an Egyptian bazaar. He climbed on his hands and knees the steep steps of an Egyptian fort. In Paris, he immersed himself in opera, museums and gastronomy – he particularly enjoyed a Parisian hot dog.

He took about 18 courses and says he passed all but one.

It was in a computer graphics class, the one where he had to ask the student sitting next to him on the first day how to turn on the computer. “My generation doesn’t get along with computers,” he laughed.

He’s spent a lot of time with tutors: “I got my C, and I’m so proud of it.

He had never painted before taking courses at CNC, and it was not easy. He was so frustrated with a self-portrait that he briefly refused to paint.

It didn’t last long. He returned home and tried again, finishing a self-portrait he was proud of in two hours. “That’s when I realized I had to work fast,” Richebacher said. “I create better by doing it without thinking.”

He particularly likes mixed techniques. He is proud of his work and has sold several pieces. He creates both at home and in the classroom.

As we were talking at the student center, he pulled out his phone and scrolled through the pictures. He paints and draws, makes a ceramic teapot and creates pieces in wood, aluminium, copper, hemp, Plexiglas, paper, wire and other materials.

One of his favorites is “Hawaiian Waters”, a 6ft by 9ft acrylic on canvas painting with screen printed fish paintings. It is made up of 18 panels, each 18 by 24 inches. Each of the panels is an individual piece and when put together they represent a volcano spewing lava flowing into the sea. It took him all of last summer to finish.

Another creation, “Legalization of Cannibis,” stands about 5 feet tall and is made of hemp, wood, copper, plexiglass, and cigarette paper.

Richebacher admits that he sometimes gives his teachers a hard time by challenging them. He is not shy in class and does not hesitate to ask questions. He had a few for Gorchov on Wednesday, including whether flour would work as a thickening agent in acrylic paint.

Having older adults with life experiences in the classrooms is an opportunity for everyone, said Michael Sparrow, CNC’s dean of enrollment and retention management.

“Intergenerational conversations are really something that enriches the classroom experience,” said Sparrow, who saw this firsthand when he taught history at NCC.

The college encourages people of Richebacher’s age to be part of its community and facilitates their participation. It waives tuition and fees for people age 65 and over who live in Northampton County.

More than 130 of CNC’s students last fall were 55 or older.

It can help keep their minds sharp as they get older. The National Institute on Aging says learning new skills can improve older adults’ thinking skills.

Richebacher found college to be good for his body as well as his mind. Walking around campus will loosen his back as the semester progresses.

“In a week I will still be using my cane, but I will be walking much better,” he said.

He encouraged others his age to take advantage of what CNC has to offer, but few listened.

“Once in a while I see an old jerk, but not too often. »

He does not understand why more will not experiment.

“Life is a journey,” he said. “You just have to keep moving forward.”

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or [email protected]

Northampton Community College: Call the college admissions office, 610-861-5300. The waiver applies only to courses taken for credit, not to non-credit continuing education courses.

Lehigh Carbon Community College: When space is available, LCCC waives tuition for credit courses for students over age 60 who live in the college’s nine sponsor school districts: Allentown, Catasauqua, East Penn, Northern Lehigh, Northwestern Lehigh, Parkland, Salisbury, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall-Coplay, Jim Thorpe, Lehighton, Palmerton and Panther Valley. Call its admissions office, 610-799-2121.

Kayleen C. Rice