Retirees in Touch: Karen Chesler Cox
Seeking Sunshine and Finding Purpose in the Beehive State
Karen Chesler Cox grew up in Idaho and moved to Alaska in 1961 with her spouse, Leon Chesler, when he took a job with the FAA in Anchorage. In Anchorage, Karen spent her career teaching social studies in the Anchorage School District from 1969-1990 at Mears, Service-Hanshew, and Hanshew Jr. High. Karen and Leon planned to stay in Alaska for two years, but their enjoyable jobs and the great people they met kept them in the state—they didn’t end up leaving until 1992.
After retiring, Karen moved away from Alaska and has been living in North Salt Lake, Utah. Karen said, “I left Alaska for two reasons: the weather—I like it sunny and warm—and my family lived in the west and I wanted to be closer to them.”
In Utah, Karen filled her time working for the Utah State Senate, first as a page and then as the Senate recorder. “When the opportunity arose to work for the Senate, I took it. It was a fun job and I met some really wonderful people,” she said. It was an appealing option to her given that the Utah State Senate only meets for six weeks each year. Karen later worked in the office of U.S. Senator Robert Bennett. “Both experiences were wonderful. Teaching social studies gave me insight into the political process and working in the Senate and for Senator Bennett gave me a different perspective on how our government is run,” she said.
After a time away from Alaska, Karen grew fond of the Beehive State. “I fell in love with the history of Utah, my adopted state, and shared that history with others,” she explained. She was able to share this love of history through working at the Salt Lake City Convention and Visitors Center, giving city tours for Meetings America, and working as a docent at the Utah State Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion.
Apart from working, Karen has spent her retirement in Utah pursuing other interests and activities. She and her spouse were involved with the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics and were volunteers for the opening ceremony of the Paralympics and at the SLOC Visitors Center, where they met and assisted visitors from all over the world.
One of the hobbies Karen has picked up in her retirement is researching her family history. “I have gained lots of knowledge and computer experience because of it. I have been able to pursue my research at the Family History Library in [Salt Lake City] and have volunteered on the British floor for about ten years. I have really enjoyed the experience,” she said. After several years of research, Karen wrote and published a history of her parents.
Karen’s immediate family has grown and spread out across the country. She and her spouse love having contact with her four children and seventeen grandchildren who live in Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Las Vegas, and as far away as Argentina. The distance is no obstacle as they enjoy getting away whenever possible. “We have had the opportunity to travel widely…our favorite trip was to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in 2009,” she said.
Karen explained that what she loves most about retirement is, “the freedom to spend my day accomplishing things that I think are really important. I love to walk, pursue my studies, read, meet new people, volunteer, travel, sew, [and] serve others. I enjoy the small and simple things of life like a beautiful mountain, a sunrise or a sunset…life is good! I am grateful for the good health I enjoy that makes all of this possible.”
Karen attributes being able to enjoy her retirement to her Alaska retirement plan and smart investments earlier in life: “My Alaska retirement has been a great blessing in my life. It has given me the money and opportunity to go to new places, do many different things, and meet many interesting people along the way.” In addition to her retirement savings, while employed Karen invested as much of her salary as possible in tax-sheltered annuities in order to help reach her financial goals. “It has added greatly to my retirement and has made travel and other things possible for me,” she said.
For members preparing for retirement, apart from smart financial investments, Karen gave this advice: “It is important to have a number of hobbies or things that you really enjoy doing. I love to quilt, read, garden, research family history, go out to lunch, and be with family. I don’t know how I had time to work.”