Monday, July 15, 2013

Late Bloomers


An adult late bloomer is somebody that reaches his or her peak at an advanced age.   Sure, we are all inspired by young leaders and visionaries and even more so by child prodigies.  However, there is something quite poignant about those that succeed past their prime.  If you have reached a certain age and have yet to find your passion, don't fear.  The people below prove that it is never too late to find your calling in life.
1.  Kazuo Ohno, Dancer, Age 44
Born in Japan in 1906, Kazuo Ohno became interested in athletics at an early age.  After college, he took a job teaching physical education at a Christian high school.  It was not until the age of 27 that he began to study Japanese modern dance and started teaching dance at an all-girls school.  From then on he was drafted into the Japanese army where he served in WWII.  After the war he continued dancing and in 1950, at the age of 44, he created a highly regarded dancing style called “Butoh”.
From that point on, his career in the performing arts soared.  He wrote several books, starred in films, received several awards and toured all around the world.  Although he lost the ability to walk at the age of 95, he continued performing, creating art pieces with the movement of his hands alone.
2.  Julia Child, Chef, Age 49
Born in California in 1912, Julia Child was a stranger to French cuisine for a great portion of her life.  In her collegiate years she aspired to be a writer, but upon graduation took a job in the advertising field instead.  After being fired for “gross insubordination” she went on to serve as a volunteer for a government intelligence agency during WWII. 
Her husband, also a government employee, was relocated to Paris, and so at the age of 36 Julia Child moved to France along with him.   Child immediately fell in love with the art of French cooking.   She enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu school of culinary arts and published her first book “Mastering the Art of French cooking” at the age of 49.  The premier of her TV series “"The French Chef" one year later instantly made her a local celebrity.   From then on she hosted three other television programs and published several other best selling cook books.  In 1993, at the age of 81, Childs became the first woman inducted into the Culinary Institute Hall of Fame.
3.  Vaclav Havel, Politician, Age 53
Before becoming president of Czechoslovakia and subsequently the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel was a playwright, essayist and poet. 
He was born in Prague in 1936 to an influential family.  Growing up, Havel took on an apprenticeship at a chemical laboratory and joined the military before working as a stagehand for a theatrical company in 1959.  He quickly began to write plays and by 1968 was a prominent participant in the liberal arts reform of the time.   Although his plays were widely successful, Havel’s main passion was protecting human rights. 
During the surge of antigovernment demonstrations in Prague in 1989, Havel became the leading figure among the Civic Forum, a coalition for noncommunist leaders.  As a result, when the Communist Party surrendered later that year, Havel was elected president.  He was 53 years old.  He served for 14 years before stepping down in 2003 and going back to playwriting. 
4.  Oscar Swahn, Olympian, Age 64
Unlike others listed, Oscar Swahn began his trademark profession at a young age.  Born in Sweden in 1847, he started practicing competitive shooting at 16 years old.  However, it was not until his early sixties that his career reached its pinnacle.
He entered his first Olympics in 1908 at 60 years old.  He won two gold medals and one bronze in rifle shooting.   He participated for a second time in 1912, at the age of 64, this time earning one gold and one bronze medal, a feat which made him the oldest medalist in Olympic history.  He competed in the Olympics again in 1920, at the age of 72, consequently becoming the oldest person to ever participate in the games.  To this day, Swahn's record of not only being the oldest athlete to participate in the Olympics but the oldest athlete to place as well, still stands.
5.  Colonel Harland David Sanders, Restaurateur, Age 65
Before his face was plastered on buckets of fried chicken all across the world, Colonel Sanders held an array of jobs.  It is even said that his first wife left him as a result of his inability to keep a trade.  Dropping out of school at the age of 12, he enlisted in the United States Army at 15 then served as a mule handler, a steamboat pilot, an insurance salesman, a railroad fireman, a farmer, a ferryboat entrepreneur, a tire salesman, an amateur obstetrician, a gas station operator, a motel operator and a political candidate (albeit unsuccessfully) before finally becoming a restaurateur. 
At 40, he opened a service station/restaurant in which he served meals to customers right on his dining room table.  His secret fried chicken recipe quickly gained popularity among locals, however as a result of the emergence of a new highway reducing traffic, the business soon failed.   Colonel Sanders, then retired, took his Social Security Check (a whopping $105) and opened the first KFC franchise at the age of 65.  Nine years later, he sold the Kentucky Fried Chicken Corporation for $2 million.
6.  Peg Phillips, Actress, Age 67
Born Margaret Linton, Peg Phillips always knew she wanted to be an actress.  However, she dedicated her life to working as an accountant instead.  Never losing her desire for acting, she participated in various theatrical groups.  After retiring from accounting, she went on to enroll in drama school although she never fully completed the degree. 
She got her first professional movie role in 1985 at 67 years old.  She had guest roles on television programs such as “ER” and “7th Heaven” and the movies “Case” and “How the West was Fun” with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen.  However she is best known for playing storekeeper Ruth-Ann Miller in the series “Northern Exposure”. 
7.  Anna Mary Robertson Moses, Artist, Age 76
 "Grandma Moses" is a first-rate example of successfully launching a career at a late age.  She dedicated most of her childhood and adult life to farming before retiring in 1935 at the age of 76.  At her leisure, she became skilled in embroidery, yet as a result of arthritis it later became difficult for her to pick up the needle.  As an alternative, she began to paint. 
She was discovered in 1938 when art collector Louis J. Caldor happened upon her paintings displayed in a drug store window.   A year later, three of her pieces were included in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  Shortly after, her exhibitions broke attendance records worldwide.  Her images could be seen anywhere from clothing to cookie jars to advertising campaigns.  She continued painting until the age of 101, and created over 1600 canvasses.  Before fame, her artwork sold for $3 to $5.  In November 2006, her work Sugaring Off (created in 1943), sold for $1.2 million.
8.  William “Bill” Traylor, Artist, Age 83
Yet another artist, William "Bill" Traylor, began painting even later at the age of 83.  Traylor was born into slavery at a plantation in Alabama.  He continued living in the farm well after emancipation. At the age of 83, after most of his relatives passed on, he moved to Montgomery, Alabama.  Shortly after arriving, he thought himself how to paint.
When Traylor was 86, a painter named Charles Shannon purchased some of his art work and arranged for it to be shown at an exhibition in 1940 and then again in 1942.  Unfortunately, the art was not very popular with audiences and there were no sales at the time.  After Traylor’s death in 1949 (at the age of 95), Shannon remained in possession of about 1500 of Traylor’s drawings.  In 1979, he exhibited them at a Gallery in New York.  It was at this point that audiences finally began to appreciate Traylor’s art. His work is now highly regarded and can be found in various public collections thought out the United States. 
9.  Harry Bernstein, Writer, Age 96
Harry Bernstein's writing career may have been short lived, however the mark made by his acclaimed novel “The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers” are long standing.  Bernstein was born in 1910; he spent most of his childhood living in a Jewish ghetto near Manchester.  As chronicled by his memoirs, his upbringing was mostly characterized by poverty, abuse and anti-Semitism.
For most of his life, Bernstein was a trade editor for a magazine.  He also summarized manuscripts for film studios and published a slew of articles and short stories here and there.  However, most of his writing work received little attention.   After the passing of his wife in 2002, however, Bernstein found solace only in writing.  He began his debut novel in 2004 and published it in 2007 to rave reviews.  He was 96 years old at the time.  From then on, Bernstein went on to publish two other books, both also to critical acclaim. 

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