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A Rewarding Retirement: Frank Malinoski and Judith Sanders

Retirement is envisioned as a time when life slows down and the days are filled with relaxation. Ironically, though, the people who are the most content in their retirement are the ones who continue to stay busy and occupied by work to some degree.

Husband and wife Frank Malinoski and Judith Sanders are a couple who have managed to fill their retirement schedules to the brim. In their life at Magnolia Greens, they have created an excellent mixture of intellectual, social and community involvement.

Sanders and Malinoski had successful careers in the medical field, and both served the military for portions of their professional lives. Sanders worked as a civilian nurse at an Army research facility.

Malinoski is a physician, and he served as a clinical investigator in the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases. His position included investigating the activities of foreign countries in order to help protect the United States against biological weapons.

During their professional careers, Sanders and Malinoski moved around often but spent a majority of their lives in Maryland. During that time, the couple frequented Carolina Beach during the summers. Judith’s brother and his wife had a house in Carolina Beach, and he moved to the area to live on a full-time basis, eventually choosing Magnolia Greens as his home.

When Sanders and Malinoski decided to retire, the decision to move to North Carolina came naturally. Their careers allowed them to experience many different parts of the country, from Texas to New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland, but to Sanders and Malinoski the coast of North Carolina provided the ideal balance. They purchased the lot next to Sanders’ brother in Magnolia Greens in 2007 and shortly after built a house.

Today, Malinoski remains involved in the pharmaceutical industry on a part-time basis, serving as a consultant to several companies. He commutes to the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area once a week, so he has been able to include his career in his daily life, on his schedule.

Sanders, however, took an entirely different approach. Retirement has offered her the opportunity to develop a passion that is not directly related to her professional career. This November, after three years in the making, Judith published her second novel, In His Stead (A Father’s War).

The book focuses on the life of a father and retired Army Ranger who is intimately familiar with the costs of war and who tries to shield his son from having to share the horrific experiences that come with war.

While being a writer is very different from Sanders’ professional career, she has been able to fold her life experiences and interests into her subject matter. According to Sanders, war has always been at the backdrop of her life. She was born at the end of the World War II. Her father developed mesothelioma from asbestos exposure while serving as a defense contractor. She lost friends during Vietnam. Her brother served in the Air Force, and her nephews have served in Afghanistan. It was only natural that her story be focused on a military family.

“The more facts you are able to put into fiction, the more believable it is,” she says.

Sanders also feels that her career as a nurse resulted in her being a more effective writer because she is able to connect with people through common emotions.

“Nursing taught me that people are people, regardless of what they look like or their socioeconomic status,” she says.

Sanders recalls one time in particular when a homeless man was brought into her hospital and she noticed that he wasn’t being provided the same standard of care as the other patients. The caregivers would provide care but would avoid him when they could. Sanders remembers empathizing with this patient because he was able to sense that he wasn’t being treated equally and felt as though he wasn’t welcome.

“Everybody has a story; has something positive that should be heard,” she says. “We are supposed to take care of one another. We need one another.”

Sanders and Malinoski suggest that for many Americans, particularly the younger generations, war doesn’t have the same meaning. They feel younger generations aren’t as able to relate to those who are fighting for them.

“During World War II nine percent of the population was in the military,” says Sanders. “Now it’s about one percent. People take it for granted now and they don’t understand what it was like to have to wonder if someone in your family was going to get drafted.”

“We really connect with them [members of the military],” Malinoski adds. “It is really hard work, and it is a thankless job in many ways.”

In order to help give back to the families who are currently serving in the armed forces, Sanders and Malinoski have become involved with an organization called Hearts Apart. The goal of Hearts Apart is to help provide a connection between military personnel and their families and loved ones during the time that they are serving abroad.

In Hearts Apart, professional photographers take pictures of the family at no cost, and the person being deployed is given those pictures printed on a medium that is pocket-sized and is resistant to rain, mud, sweat, etc.

“War proof,” as Sanders describes them.

The organization started in Wilmington and now includes 350 participating photographers across the country. The organization was recently selected among the top 20 finalists in the Joining Forces Community Challenge, a national initiative launched by Michelle Obama to support America’s service members and their families.

Sanders recalls when she first got involved in the organization. She visited Brownie Harris (director of photography and one of the founders of the organization) and saw a wall in his studio, which was covered in signatures.

“They were thank-you notes from all the military families,” says Sanders. “It was very moving to see that wall.”

Another of the couple’s charity involvements includes taking an annual trip to help provide urgent medical care in Nicaragua.

In addition to their professional and charity involvements, Sanders and Malinoski also are able to maintain an active social life. Sanders is in a writers group, which has been a good way for her to meet new people with similar interests. They also spend a lot of time gardening and enjoying the wildlife around them. They frequent the farmers market and other local food vendors. And they also spend time socializing with neighbors.

“Everybody here has such varied backgrounds, and everybody is really friendly,” Malinoski says of his neighbors in Leland. “We typically lived in places that were out of the way (prior to moving to Magnolia Greens). This has worked for us. It has brought us into the community.”

The couple keeps a residence in New Hampshire, partly so that they are able to stay close with their children and grandchildren, but also to escape the humidity of North Carolina summers.

“This (having a second home in New Hampshire) has just been the greatest,” says Sanders. “We have a condo up north so we can go see the beautiful scenery and pines, and then come back here and I don’t have to shovel any of that white stuff.”

For Malinoski and Sanders, retirement has been far from laid back. But the couple would not have it any other way. Through living such an active lifestyle, they have created great fellowship with neighbors and have been able to involve themselves in work that they find stimulating and that benefits others. They experienced the challenges of military life, and, in many different ways, are doing what they can to help make life just a little easier for the next generation of service members.

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