Last month, I launched a new series, Real Gals, in collaboration with the nonprofit GlamourGals. (You can find part one on the amazing Rosalie here.) GlamourGals encourages high school and college students to volunteer with the elderly in senior homes across the United States, creating a unique bond between two generations of women.
Since GlamourGals empowers women of all ages, this series focuses on women of all ages, as well, and the careers and passions that make them who they are. Some are seniors served by GlamourGals, some are advisory board members for the nonprofit, all have the most wonderful adventures and advice to share.
For part two of Real Gals, meet 88-year-old Patricia Snook. She lives in Manhattan, loves the theater, and had two different careers throughout her life, as an English teacher and a social therapist. Here's a bit of Pat's story...
Patricia Snook was taking a class at Union Seminary in New York City when she met her second husband, John. (Her father, a minister, had gone to school there.) She says she was about 30 years old at the time.
"I just took one course and I met a handsome young man and he said, 'Will you walk around the block with me?' And he bought me a cup of coffee. He dated me a number of times. He knew I loved the theater, so he took me to several plays. When we came home from seeing Richard II one night, we were in the car and he said, 'No, don't get out, I need to talk to you.' And I said 'What do you want to talk about?' He said, 'I love you. Will you marry me?' And I did. You know, I wasn't a pretty girl, but he was very handsome."
The couple bought an apartment on the 25th Floor of a building that overlooked Central Park. They lived there for 30 years, until John got cancer, she says.
"When he was dying, he said, 'I want to look out on Central Park.' So I took down all the drapes so he could see the park. And the bed that he was in was pushed forward into the living room. We had been married for 50 years. Now he's been dead almost nine years, but I'm living in that same apartment and I never put the drapes back up!"
Pat had three children with John: two sons, and a daughter. One son lives in Vermont, and the other is in New York and has dinner with Pat almost every night. Her daughter lives in California.
"Unlike me—I was an English major—my daughter was a science major. And she was trying to find the answer to a problem when she was getting her Ph.D. at Yale. And she couldn't figure it out. Her lab director said, 'You go ahead and graduate with your husband [who was at Harvard], you've done a good job here.' And she said, 'I'm going to solve the problem.' A year later, in March, at midnight, my daughter called me and said, 'I did it, I solved the problem!' Basically, she found the cure for one type of breast cancer. So she graduated from Yale with top honors."
Before Pat married John, she was a teacher at Barnard School for Girls in Washington Heights. The school, which isn't around anymore, went from kindergarten through high school. When her children were older, Pat returned to teach 11th grade. After that, she went back to school to get her masters in social therapy at Columbia University, where John taught and was director of financial aid at Columbia Law School. Pat then worked as a therapist at a psychiatric center in New Jersey.
"I used to drive across the George Washington bridge every day [to go to work]. My husband was a Harvard man, and I had gone to a little college in Ohio, Wooster, which was a fine school, but I thought I should get a degree from Columbia University."
Pat's first husband, Rolf, has come back into her life. When she separated from him years ago, her father wasn't thrilled about it.
"You can imagine my father the minister didn't like it at all, but we just weren't meant for each other at the time. But I had 50 years with a wonderful man. And now my first husband keeps calling me and he wants to get remarried! I said no. But I enjoy talking to him. He wants to come visit me, but I don't want to encourage it. Being married for 50 years was enough. Besides, I’m 88. But he thinks of me of being younger."
Thank you so much to the lovely Pat for talking about her life and being a part of the Real Gals series! To learn how you can support GlamourGals, go here.
Photographs by Tom Schelling.