The Roanoker September/October 2017 - RVA16
Not Exactly a Train Wreck
This Lynchburg couple has found a contentment in retirement, even though it doesn't remotely
resemble what they had so carefully planned. STORY AND PHOTOS BY DAN SMITH
CHARLOTTE AND AUBREY WILEY had it all figured out.
cumulative effect of lugging around cameras and equip-
Until they didn't. Then they solved the problem again, but
ment for 25 years wore out his body, says Aubrey.
life, as it tends to do, had a different plan. So now, here
"I loved teaching and looked forward to do it long after
they are, retired, living in a comfy cottage, settled, treat-
I reached 65," he says. Teaching loved him, too. He was
ing each other like newlyweds, and satisfied with the way
once named the Virginia Teacher of the Year.
it turned out.
Early in retirement, "I walked around looking out the
When they first landed on a game plan for retirement,
window, thinking, 'I don't have a job,'" Aubrey says now.
they had been married for a long time. But not to each
"But I've been active with hobbies and the things I never
other. Those marriages wobbled, stumbled, then crum-
had time for before." He's written six books since retiring
bled, leaving them-in late middle age-with a problem.
(adding to the three he had already written), all on his pri-
They met each other, were immediately attracted and mar-
mary hobby, railroading. The books continue to sell well.
ried 10 years ago.
His impressive collection of railroad memorabilia has in-
Charlotte (67) was still working when they met (as a
creased and much of the house, the outbuildings and 12.5
commuting bookkeeper for the University of Virginia in
acres of their property are a display of that jaw-dropping
Charlottesville), but Aubrey's health went into the can, forc-
gathering of railroad history. Railroad buffs seek him out
ing him to retire from teaching in Lynchburg City Schools
to tour his museum.
and at Lynchburg College in 2002. He was 59 then (74
His three-year-old book "Virginian Railway: Memories"
now). She followed seven years later when the grant for
is generally considered the definitive work on that late
her job ran out.
Because of the way it came about, retirement wasn't
Charlotte, meanwhile, has "always loved art." She is a
easy for Aubrey, who had already retired from his 25-year
potter and painter and other "quirky things," like a drum-
position as an award-winning photographer (and head of
mer. Her creations are scattered around the property, as
the department, finally) at the Lynchburg News-Advance.
well, often looking like miniature celebrations of secret
"I morphed into it because of health issues," he says. The
thoughts. There is a distinct whimsy involved. "I imagine it
takes less to satisfy me," she says, smiling at Aubrey.
Retirement, for Charlotte, had meant "I'd have lots of
money, there would be cruises and trips and we'd see the
children (six between them) a lot. But it didn't work out that
way. We walk, bike, go to the restaurant and drink beer."
They eat out as much as twice a day. They are openly affectionate, joking much of the time and they seem to fully
enjoy each other's company.
Both worked a long time and accumulated satisfactory
retirement. Their home is paid for, so it doesn't take a lot
to make them happy, though frequent cruises are not part
of their plan.
"I enjoy things that don't cost a lot," says Charlotte. Aubrey's collections can cost a bit, but they result in great satisfaction for him. "A few weeks ago," he says, "we bought a
Jeep off Craigslist and we use it to get out into the country."
Under their circumstances, says Charlotte, "it doesn't
cost much to live." And the two of them live quite well.
Charlotte and Aubrey Wiley built this little cabin on their Lynchburg property.
16 | RETIRE-VA 2018