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To age well is to engage well

Members of the stamp club, Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library, during a “break in the action.”

Oh my; it’s challenging to be long of tooth. Trust me, I know. Especially bad with a mind that revs to redline saddled to an otherwise marginal body. Modern medicine can only do so much with your physical self, but with the right attitude and a Tylenol (or two), healthy diversions can bring back some old magic, if only temporarily…

The best example I’ve ever come across is the Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library (RMPL). It is a stamp club, but perforations be damned, it is so very much more.

Fact is, it is the best place of social immersion I have come across other than perhaps an inner-city barbershop. In both places, its members laugh, cry, tell tales, pontificate and yes, fib once in a while. At its essence though, is connection and camaraderie.

Whenever I stop by, there are 10-15 folks accessing RMPL books and catalogues, seeking to augment their collections with available stock or snapping up discounted postage. Most eventually fall back to chatting with each other about what they know and what they don’t.

Here is the thing. Most have limited horizons and many of their collections will be passed on to a family member with no real appreciation of value. Yet I don’t think most really care. In fact, I know they don’t; it’s just about having fun.

RMPL is both club and library. Among such organizations, its library is second only to the American Philatelic Society in Pennsylvania.

It’s managed and patronized by fascinating people. Take Tonny Van Loij, its president. The liveliest octogenarian I’ve ever met and with encyclopedic wisdom, he wasn’t always that way. Raised in Belgium, his life story has brought him suitors wishing to produce a Hollywood movie. An athlete, he was once conscripted and fought in the Belgian Congo, sailed around the world, and became a man without a country for nine years. A matchbox cover collector and stamp appraiser, one could sit at his feet for hours. He is energy defined.

In the same cast is Paul Domenici, a California transplant, once owner of a large catering concern. The face of the organization, he is an exemplar for Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People. One could chat with him for hours, for both his knowledge and a genuine love of people.

Purely happenstantial, RMPL has become symbolically bigger than the two small buildings it has occupied for 31 years at 2038 South Potomac. It is a lively meeting place where energy is cultivated, people are warmly welcomed and quickly engaged. Few of its visitors will ever wear a Speedo again and many of its members have little hair, often only in their ears.

What these members have created is an invigorating, welcoming atmosphere. The definition of “zest.” One learns, chatters, inquires, enjoys special projects or enhances his/her collection. Belonging. The real takeaway is that members who come do grow older, but ever more slowly, with aches and pains that magically slip away, at least temporarily. Engaging diversions like this are an aging and attitude elixir. Find or develop your own and put Father Time on hold. He can wait.


Rocky Mountain Philatelic Library members busy at work researching. One could get lost – or found – in such a creative locus.


Article and photo by Joe Gschwendtner




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