Norwalk Reflector: Enjoying the retirement zone
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Enjoying the retirement zone

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • Dec 25, 2018 at 8:00 AM

“Oh my gosh, I don’t have anything to do. What am I going to do with my time?”

Gail Risner had been waiting 35 years for retirement, but had been too busy working to make plans. She still automatically got up at the same time.

However, in the past year, the reality of having an open schedule has transformed her life. At first she and husband, Larry, traveled extensively: New York, Niagara Falls, on to Florida, Myrtle Beach, S.C. and Gatlinburg, Tenn.

The the unexpected happened. 

“We found out in March this year that he (Larry) had cancer, and we spent time in the Cleveland Clinic. He’s doing fine now. Soon we’re going to Galveston, Texas, to meet friends. Larry retired three years before me and would have supper ready for me, clean house some. Since then we moved to a smaller place. Our kids helped us,” Risner said.

Asked how she was enjoying retirement at this point, Risner exclaimed, “I miss the office.

“I was just shy of 35 years as the prosecutor’s office manager. I worked with Mike Fegin, Russ Leffler, Davia Kasper. We saw a lot of strange cases over the years. Drugs are (still) really, really bad, and break-ins. Basically all drug-related cases.”

Risner listed some of the most awful cases they had dealth with, such as that of “Jamie Young who killed his parents; Gravelles and the kids in cages; what I call the ‘lawnmower killer’ in Willard and Jim Parsons.”

“I had to copy pictures for all of these and a lot of times I was having nightmares. You don’t want to see the photos, but you have to (put them into the files for the procesutor). You just see the gruesomeness of it,” she said.

Risner tried to deal with it by concentrating on less heart-rending, anxiety-producing situations. She said it wasn’t that easy.

“We were overwhelmed with drug cases and I was always worrying about meeting deadlines. Or grand jury set-up, with 10 to 20 cases every three weeks. Then the special grand jury for murders. Times were really stressful, like the time Davia had three murder cases unsolved,” Risner recalled.

“We were shorthanded, so even having built up five weeks of vacation time, I still couldn’t find time in between because of trials and grand juries scheduled. There were times when lawyers asked my opinion. We’d sit down at a meeting to decide if we could charge such and such with a certain appropriate charge. It made me feel good (to have my opinion asked).”

Risner was concerned “about passing this complicated job to someone new when I retired.” She worried about the many small places where errors could be made that might seriously affect a case since she knew the ins and outs of the system. 

“I didn’t want to leave a mess; there was always so much to do,” Risner said.

In the end she said she felt that “I turned it over to good hands.”  

“But ...I miss not knowing what’s happening in the criminal world. And when you think you know it all, something worse happens,” Risner said.

Listing her great points of retirement, Risner mentioned, “I don’t have to worry about leaving work early to go to grandkids’ games — and they were in lots of compeitions. I don’t worry if I’m sick. I can lay in bed. I get up when I please, play computer games in bed, do puzzles.”

And Risner has been rescuing any animals that show up; kittens, puppies, and notably, the cockatiel that appeared nearly frozen in their yard. After bringing it back to life by wrapping it in warm towels and coaxing it to take a little soft feed, she was able to find a cozy home for it with a widowed neighbor who loves and spoils it.

“It’s kind of a whirlwind settling down. Keep active; don’t just sit around. Go for walks. But don’t plan too far ahead,” she said. “It was very, very scary when Larry had surgery. It changed my point of view on life; you don’t know what’s coming. So, indulge and enjoy retirement.” 

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