Marilyn Nevens suddenly became a widow after a happy and loving marriage of almost 58 years. She thought her world had ended and at the time, in many ways it had. Then she found a new beginning at a senior center just outside of Nashville. Today, Marilyn is known as the matriarch and co-founder of the FiftyForward Card Crusaders, a group of women who have found support in one another and a meaningful purpose while crafting the most beautiful works of art, detailed greeting cards made with the Iris paper folding method. The cards have been created for corporate clients, area zoos, and sold in the Nashville International Airport as well as in the Frist Art Museum. In this interview, Marilyn’s sense of self, humor, and story shine to demonstrate that anything, including starting a new business venture, is possible at any age.
Will you tell us about your roots and what brought you from Wisconsin to Tennessee?
Well, what brought me from Wisconsin to Tennessee was actually when my husband retired, he didn’t want any more part of ice, snow, snow shovels, and all of that. We started looking in the Carolinas and that’s where we wanted to retire. And we have one son living here and he said, “Dad, why are you going there when it’s so wonderful here in Tennessee? You still have four seasons, but none of them are actually severe and it’s lovely here.” The kids knew we wanted a condo. We didn’t want a home anymore; we didn’t want all the work with it. And they started looking for condos for us and that’s when we moved down here in March of 1990.
She continues to share about her family, her late husband, and how she had to find a new sense of self to bring joy to her life after he passed away. By joining a senior center in Nashville, she found a new beginning and friendship. Volunteering at the center gives her a sense of purpose.
What are the FiftyForward Card Crusaders
Oh, they’re a bunch of talented ladies. We were finding talents that they didn’t even know they had. We look back on the first cards that we made and I still have some of them, how simple they were. And now they’ve progressed to just beautiful cards, and we have become well-known with them already. They have improved tremendously. We started out with maybe eight or 10 patterns and we’re up to over almost 100 patterns that we make now. And we work with companies that want to bring their logos into it and we try to satisfy them by taking orders. So, we have raised money here for the center to help that. Much less the fun we have in that room. We’ve become like sisters in there. We laugh at the conversations we have and some of them are pretty funny, but it’s a close-knit group now of women in there.
In the interview, Nevens talks about the importance of keeping your mind active as you get older and how working on her iPad and playing games is a big help.
One of FiftyForward’s values is ensuring that every interaction, regardless of its complexity, is met with kindness and empathy, giving hope to those who may be alone in this world. I bet you can relate.
Exactly, and that’s what it does. Even our potluck things are so nice, our potluck days. They’ll always have some kind of entertainment or a speaker there for us, and it’s a social thing. You sit at these tables with different people, you hear their stories and you think of yours. And sometimes you think, “Oh my dear Lord, things aren’t so bad for you.” You have empathy for that person and it’s just a good place to be. It helps you realize that just getting old is not just an age by number. It’s different things that happen to you with aging that you don’t think would ever happen.
In the podcast, Nevens touches on being a child during the Depression and the role her parents played in shaping her life. While listening to this interview, gain insight and respect for a 99-year-old who is contributing to society and the lives of others in so many ways. Her words of wisdom for those who have lost a spouse are sound. Learn what keeps her motivated – including her favorite sports team – why self-care and finding joy are critical to her well-being, and how the Iris paper folding method has turned a new craft into marvelous and memorable works of art giving her yet another meaningful title in life: entrepreneur.
This Squeeze the Day is brought to you by the All of Us Research Program from the National Institutes of Health. Learn how you can help change the future of health by participating in the program.
Visit joinallofus.org to learn more.