Cille and Rob Harris
We are retired engineers, happily married, four independent sons, three gorgeous grandchildren, and a yearning to live fully into our 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, in service to people. This is our story.
We met on the first day of classes in Engineering at Waterloo University. Our romance developed quickly and deepened throughout the 5 year co-op program as we studied and played together, especially when we got hooked on the game of bridge. In 1979 we graduated, married and travelled to Europe for 6 weeks, from Scotland to Crete (our favourite) to Israel and back. Then we started our professional engineering careers in Toronto, creating our life together.
Rob was the company man, dedicated IBM’er, systems architect and project manager, advancing to become the overseer of troubled projects for Canada and the Caribbean, in his 34½ year IBM career. With this position came long hours and high stress. Until one day Cille said “you need to retire, this is nuts” and within two days, he submitted his resignation and retired from IBM in 2014.
Cille chose the human side of engineering, specializing in quality management and organization development. Appreciating the stability of Rob’s income, she started her own facilitative consulting business, Real Alternatives Inc. (RA) in 1988. She grew RA to a community of professional facilitators who collaborated on significant and meaningful projects to help organizations and communities to improve. Cille also worked with colleagues to create Real Conversations in Health, public conversations to open up lines of communication among all types of health care providers.
On the personal side, for the first 5 years after graduation, we enjoyed life as a newly graduated, married couple. Bridge was the constant indulgence, playing 3-4 times each week, often travelling to tournaments on weekends. Cille even taught beginner bridge at a Toronto bridge club and later taught bridge classes at home. We bought our first home, enjoyed our families and friendships, and then we wanted more.
We embraced parenthood as four sons were born in 1984, 1985, 1989 and 1991. Cille stayed home for the first 4 years and earned her MBA part time, appreciating the adult conversations and interactions while completely enjoying motherhood. Several nannies joined the growing family and hockey (and other sports) became the constant activity, along with the occasional bridge game with friends. In 1992 our family moved to Ottawa, thanks to an IBM transfer, to be near Cille’s family and to enjoy the benefits of a smaller city to raise four sons.
Cille remembers thinking “I am going to make a difference in this city”, and jumped onto various volunteer Boards, in addition to growing RA. Cille led the Koalaty Kid initiative in Ottawa, helping schools improve the education system. She was also a leader in the Organization Development association, helping to advance the profession in Ottawa/Outaouais. Rob too was active in the community and served as coach, manager, treasurer for many sports teams and served for several years as the ice-scheduler in Kanata.
So now, where are we? In our mid-60’s, we’ve said goodbye to our successful engineering careers, we have four sons who are amazing independent adults, and we continue to enjoy our delightful grandchildren to bits! We’ve moved out to cottage country and live on a pristine lake in North Frontenac with towering pine trees, laughing loons and brilliant sunsets.
AND we want more than what society suggests we should expect, as we “age”. We want to be healthy, vibrant, active “seniors”, who have a purpose and feel fulfilled because we are contributing to society and the world we all call home. We are looking forward to travelling the world now that we have the time, freedom and the tools to do so. We are out living the dream!