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Lee Tobin has been involved in the Empty Nesters Club for more than three decades. (Photo courtesy of Lee Tobin )
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Wherever she has lived, Leonora Tobin has always made a point of getting involved in the community, joining organizations, and making connections. Now in her 80s, Leonora, who is known to most as Lee, has been a member of the Madison Empty Nesters Club since 1985.
“When we moved to Madison, I joined the Newcomers Club, but you can’t be in Newcomers for any length of time, so a group of ladies decided to start the Empty Nesters,” says Lee. “It’s a very enjoyable club for those who are wanting to meet other ladies of their same age.”
In the early years, the Empty Nesters met monthly at a different member’s home. The club now meets at 11:30 a.m. at the Senior Center the third Wednesday of the month April through November. In December, a Christmas luncheon is held on the second Wednesday. The annual meeting will be held at the Surf Club on Wednesday, June 19 at 5 p.m.
“A lot of us are snowbirds, so we don’t meet in January, February, or March,” says Lee, who spends winters in St. Augustine, Florida, with her husband, Bob. “The annual meeting is open to the public and we’ll have a picnic. We welcome all ladies and are always looking for new members.”
For each monthly meeting, two members work together to plan the agenda. In the past, there have been luncheons, speakers on a variety of topics as well as trips to various points of interest throughout the state.
“We’ve done many outings—museums, the theater, the circus,” says Lee, whose favorite trips have included the Goodspeed Opera House, the Essex Steam Train Connecticut River cruise and train ride, and visits to historical sites.
“I enjoy learning the history,” she says. “One year we did a high tea and that was a smash hit. The ladies really enjoyed it.”
While Lee enjoys learning the history of the state and other events, she has also enjoyed learning from fellow members, noting that the members come from all over the country and the world.
Lee grew up in Boston. In the 1950s, she worked at MIT’s Instrumentation Lab in Cambridge and Tuft’s New England Medical Center for world-famous hematologist William Dameshek and Harvard’s Peter Bent Brigham Hospital for Cardio-Renal Group that performed the world’s first kidney transplant under Dr. J.P. Merrill and Dr. Warren R. Guild.
Lee got married in 1962 and she and Bob will celebrate their 57th anniversary on June 16. The couple has four daughters. For 10 years, Lee and her family lived abroad, spending time in China, Italy, and Spain. Everywhere they moved, Lee joined the Federated Women’s Club, serving 25 years as a board member of the organization, including a term as vice president in Taipei.
“It was a great way to socialize, to meet people, and to learn about the area and the history,” says Lee, who also joined the group in New Hampshire, Georgia, and Mystic. “Every area is different, every country is different and the customs are different. The Federated Women’s Club was a good outlet that does community service work.”
Lee and her family returned to the United States. She had spent 27 years raising her family and, when her youngest daughter went to college, so did Lee. She received a business administration degree from Middlesex College and worked at an internist’s office during her early years in Madison.
“I stopped my work with the Federated Women’s Club in the ‘90s,” says Lee. “I was in college and I couldn’t keep up and offer my services to community at that time. Then I started working.”
Despite her busy schedule once she started college and began working, Lee continued to be involved with the Empty Nesters Club. She has seen the club grow from a starting membership of 15 women to its peak at 45 members. The club now has fewer than 20 members and Lee encourages other ladies to join.
“Our oldest member will be 100 in the middle of June—she isn’t able to get out much now, but she’s an honorary member,” says Lee. “People enjoy the camaraderie of the ladies and learning about Connecticut.”
Lee has been retired from her career for a number of years. Despite a recent knee surgery, she still keeps a full schedule. In addition to her work as a founding member of the Empty Nesters Club, she is also devoting more time to her passions, which include traveling, theater, and the opera.
“I can’t sit home and rock in a chair,” says Lee. “I still get out there and move.”
She has been involved since 1986 with the Connecticut Opera Company, working behind the scenes on costumes and in the front office. She also spent many years as an usher. Lee is also a docent for Madison Lyric Stage, for which she also works in the front office and sells tickets.
“Those are two of my passions right now,” says Lee, though her third—travel—remains a priority. “I love Italy, Switzerland, Spain. I just love Europe and what it offers—I love the culture, the food, the architecture.”
While Bob is no longer able to travel abroad, the two visit their children and grandchildren with two daughters living in New York, one in Florida, and one in Arizona. They also enjoy dining out.
Lee also has continued her education by joining the Schiller Shoreline Institute for Lifelong Learning. She enjoys attending lectures at the Senior Center and other venues.
“There’s an upcoming event with an artist who will talk about Chinese art,” says Lee. “I took a course in China about art history, so it’ll be interesting to hear his view.”
Looking back at all she has gained by being a part of different organizations and clubs, Lee encourages others to reach out to the community and join groups that pique their interests.
“The time will come that you’ll get bored and will start joining again,” says Lee. “There’s a time when it’s for you and a time when it’s for your family. Then the family starts leaving and that empty space in your life needs some love. These groups are accommodating and coming from different backgrounds and places, we’ve learned from each other. The friendships one gains through an organization are meaningful.”
For information on the Empty Nesters Club, call Leonora Tobin at 203-245-1207.
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