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Shines Life

By Alexa Yianacopolus

Local Wakefield seniors and Wakefield Memorial High School seniors came together for lunch, conversation, and interviews as part of a cross-generational program titled Seniors to Seniors. The resulting articles written by students using lived experiences from the adults as content are being published as a series. Seniors to Seniors is a collaboration between The Savings Bank, The Room to Write, Wakefield High School, Wakefield Senior Center, Wakefield Daily Item, and JC Marketing Associates.

Kathleen Shine Cain was raised alongside her four siblings in North Andover, Massachusetts. Her father, initially a dedicated policeman, later transitioned into retirement as a manager at a furniture store. He did that for the rest of his life, and he never even graduated from high school. Her mother was the youngest of 11 children who dreamed of attending college. Despite opposition from her older brothers, she boldly enrolled in business school and forged a successful career as a bookkeeper. Her mother was determined to provide opportunities to ensure that all of her children got a college education. Her parents were very supportive of her and would keep things positive.

Kathleen’s life growing up was very intriguing. She was three years old when she moved from a two-bedroom apartment with her parents, four siblings,
her grandfather, and aunt, to an 11-room house. This big old Victorian house would leave her wandering its halls in delightful confusion. According to Kathleen, growing up was a very different time than it is now. They wouldn’t lock their doors every night, but they also lived in a small, sheltered town. She lived right down the street from her school. Her neighborhood was a great place to live because she had lots of kids to play with and be with all the time.

By the age of 12, Kathleen wanted to be the U.S. president. It was always her dream to run the country. Unfortunately, when she got older, she realized that her dream wasn’t going to work out. She and her 4 siblings have also all gone to Merrimack College and graduated from there, as well as her husband. She worked at Merrimack College for 36 years. While working there, she taught American literature and directed the writing center. She had taught at many different colleges when she was in grad school but eventually settled at Merrimack. She has always wanted to be a teacher and teach students.

Kathleen and her husband welcomed one daughter into their lives. Currently, she now has two adored grandchildren, Declan and Eamon who are now 9 and 12, sharing a two-family home with their daughter, son-in-law, and the little ones. Kathleen likes to empathize with the importance of studying abroad when in college. She brought her students with her when she went to Ireland. She liked getting to know about the different cultures and countries. Her best advice
embodies her belief that timing holds no bounds, there is always time to pursue your dreams. This insight is underscored by her personal experience obtaining her passport at 50, which had it stamped four times that year.

When she went to Ireland she also went with her daughter because she was studying abroad there. Then because of her writing center work, she came into contact with people in Belfast, Northern Ireland, who were trying to develop a writing program at their university. They then got a grant from the government to bring in an expert from the States, because the writing centers started in the States. As a result, her husband went over and lived there for a little while. When she came back to America she educated her students about the troubles of the civil war in Northern Ireland that ended in 1998. Following graduation, she would facilitate trips for her students to meet individuals who had lived through these events, a practice she continued for about six years thereafter.

Kathleen is now retired from her job. She still does a lot of professional work and has long-term projects she is working on with writing programs. She was on the Wakefield Cultural Council and belonged to an organization called the anti-racism group. She is also on the Wakefield democratic town committee. She does writing retreats in Ireland once or twice a year. After COVID, she and her family that lived in the 2 family house became more blended because COVID pulled them closer, and they see each other much more often. Her husband picks up her grandson from school every day and they have a family dinner once a week together. She also swims at the YMCA to get her exercise in.

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