About Utah: Don Gale is showing how not to retire

Published: Wednesday, March 7 2007 9:12 a.m. MST

Don Gale was halfway through the lunch special at Lamb's Cafe when he told me the one about KSL sending him to an out-of-state voice coach.

Anyone with a memory approaching a decade will remember Gale as the longtime voice of KSL. Three times a day through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s he delivered on-air editorials.

He first got the job because they liked his writing. Then they went to work on his delivery.

Said Gale, a native Utahn: "I remember the voice coach saying to me, 'I've heard people speak slower than you, but they were all dead."'

He dropped his droll punchline effortlessly, taking self-effacement to new heights. It's always seemed to me that people who are really good at making fun of themselves are the ones who had fun doing whatever it is they did in the first place.

And I'm guessing that's also the reason they never want to stop moving on to something else.

Don Gale spent parts of three decades telling us how to think, now he's showing us how not to retire.

You couldn't pay him to sit on a rocker on the front porch.

"I didn't go to school to learn how to retire," he said.

And then added, "people don't slow down as fast as they used to."

He's 73 now, almost nine years removed from the day job at KSL, and if that means he's supposed to be on a cruise ship somewhere, he's yet to act his age.

As soon as KSL gave him his gold watch, or whatever it was, he walked three blocks east to Main Street and rented downtown office space for Words, Words, Words, Inc., a communications consulting company created by Gale for two purposes: 1), so he could keep writing and 2), so he could keep getting up every morning and going to the office.

He's picked up enough work here and there, including writing a once-a-month column for the Deseret Morning News, to pay the rent.

But making money isn't what it's all about and never will be.

What it's all about is living life to the fullest.

When he first moved into his "retirement" office he found himself next to another man who treated retirement like a disease. Izzi Wagner was in his 80s at the time and came to work every day without fail, even though he didn't need to.

Naturally, these kindred spirits connected and Gale soon enough became one of Izzi's regular lunch partners. Through bits and pieces and no telling how many Granato's sandwiches, Gale heard enough engaging, witty stories from Wagner, a self-made multimillionaire who got his start in the burlap bag business, that he began writing them down when he got back to his keyboard. From that, Gale wrote a book, published earlier this year, called "Bags to Riches, the story of I.J. Wagner."

Izzi died in 2005 at the age of 90, so he never got a chance to see the finished product, although he did see the manuscript, to which he responded, "Why would anyone want to read about me?"

Gale told Izzi it was because of the rich and colorful life he lived — the kind of life others would find inspiring.

That sounds a lot like someone I had lunch with just the other day.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.

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