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Looking back, looking forward: PIN sources share reflections and hopes

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 29, 2010 - When the Beacon asked sources in our Public Insight Network to share their most memorable experiences of 2010, and their biggest hopes for 2011, the responses ranged from an unexpected marriage in middle age, to health concerns, to disappointment with actions -- and inactions -- by politicians.

But the leading issue from the responders was jobs: glad to have one, hoping to find a better one, starting a new one.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Christina Wilde, who lives in west St. Louis County, said what she will remember most about 2010 is being grateful every day that she has a job. Wilde is director of meetings and events for Switch, an experiential marketing agency in St. Louis.

"Something that used to be a given has become a luxury of sorts, and I feel fortunate to still say that I am employed," Wilde said in a written response to PIN questions posed this month.

"My hope for the future is that we can return to a time where the basic essentials are once again something we can feel confident in so that we can concentrate on the larger issues at hand -- like how to keep the United States competitive in the changing global economic climate."

Jennifer Barfield of Maplewood said she is hopeful of finding a job in the new year. But what she will remember most about the ending year is that she got married for the first time, at age 47.

"I have been unemployed since March 2009, after my job of 10 years was eliminated," Barfield wrote. She formerly worked in internet technology. "During the next few months of job searching, networking and the like, I met my future husband ... also unemployed. We started dating in October 2009, and he found a job in February 2010 so we set a date, October 10, 2010. 10-10-10! And while I was still unemployed, I planned my wedding.

"My parents paid for the wedding, which was phenomenal. They are in their early 70s. Since I am such an older bride and had made very good money, I never intended to ask for or receive their help with my wedding.  But times being what they are, my fiance and I could not afford to have a wedding, so with my parents' financial support (even on a pretty tight budget) we had a beautiful one. Everything about it was perfect, from the weather, to all of our family coming in from out of town for it, to all our friends in attendance, to the venue.

"It was so special to me, and an incredible memory. I had resolved never to marry, after a series of bad relationships in my 20s and 30s, but then ... finally, Mr. Right came along. He is perfect for me. We get along so well and really enjoy each other's company. I couldn't be happier, well except possibly when I get back to work!

"My husband lost his job right after our honeymoon, and we are both unemployed right now, but both are very hopeful for 2011. And we are happy. I hope that both my husband and I get employed in early 2011, like the first quarter, preferably January.

Jennifer has worked with telecommunications, financial systems and security. She is looking for an IT administrator position. Brian, who was formerly a line supervisor at Chrysler and a shipping supervisor, is looking for a job that best suits his skills. 

Here is what others said when we asked about their most memorable experience in 2010, and what they hope for in 2011:

Stacy Mergenthal of Wentzville: "The mid-term election. Specifically, the campaigns leading up to the election. It's most memorable to me because I was able to get a first-hand look at how campaigns work, how terribly uninformative the mainstream media are, and how hands-off and fickle the Democratic Party can be.

"It was a very shocking and demoralizing experience in many ways. The one good thing to come of it was that I met a phenomenal person and good Democratic candidate who helped me think more critically about the political process, made me feel like I had a voice, and encouraged me to be involved."

Ronald Riess of St. Louis: "I tested positive on a stress test, had a heart cath, and was 85 percent blocked. I received three stents. I hope I will not have a repeat of 2010. I turned 67 and became old."

Joseph Czaicki of Crestwood: "The tight job market. I have been in job transition for 20 months. It has been challenging to find full-time employment. I have had my ups and downs, however, I know that this is a temporary condition. I also know that adversity is good for the soul and that it can only make me a better, stronger person. My faith in God has helped guide me through these challenges. I hope to find that elusive full-time job.  I miss having a daily routine and contributing to my family and to my community."

Czaicki currently works at St. Louis University as a part-time OSHA training course instructor. He is seeking a professional job in health and safety in the manufacturing, insurance or consultative industries. He has 20 years of experience as an OSHA inspector and is certified as an industrial hygienist and safety professional.

Don Beimdiek of Brentwood: "I did not move my retirement investments from equity into bonds as recommended by experienced investment advisers who advised that my age (82) should be the percent of my funds in bonds, i.e. 82 percent. My investment was 80 percent in stocks. I was able to watch the value of my investments recover as the market improved during the year, back to the level before the economy turned down."

Mike Murray of St. Louis: "Repeal of 'Don't ask, don't tell' was long overdue. It reinforces what this country is all about: equality of opportunity. I can proudly tell my friends in other countries that we live what we have dared to dream ... that equality and justice are more than just words in our Constitution."

Norma Deen Juracsik of Clayton: "What I remember about 2010 is that it seemed a time when so many bad things happened: extremely bad weather and natural disasters in many places; more crime because of the economy and shortage of jobs; a president who (a smart guy, but, I believe, due to lack of experience) spent way too much money putting us in unbelievable debt; signs of crumbling infrastructure all over the U.S., with most states cutting many important services and almost in bankruptcy; involved in two wars, with too much loss of life on both sides, that it appears cannot be won. A total waste of U.S. defense money.

"In my 71 years of life, this seems the lowest point in my history and confidence in our government. Their priorities seem to be out of order -- especially in education for the future generation of this country, with our children way behind other countries. Our position as the superpower seems threatened by several other nations. In spite of what I've said above, I'm normally a very upbeat positive person.

"We want the government to stop wasting our tax dollars and spend it on the important issues facing our country: education, sewers, water pipes, decaying bridges, public transportation, jobs. We've let other countries surpass us in these areas."

Jim Zavist of St. Louis: "Starting a new job as a table games dealer at River City Casino -- it's been the first job that I've been able to find that pays more than $9 an hour since I was laid off in 2008. More income, continued hope for economic improvement in the future."

Zavist is hopeful of "finding a position in my former profession (architecture) -- it's a field I love and one where I can make a real contribution. With unemployment running around 30 percent in architecture, the only way things will improve is when lending loosens, the economy improves and people start building again."

Robert DeLorey of Ballwin: 2010 was a "disappointment. When the Democratic Party, that was still in control of both houses and the presidency, did not let the Bush tax cuts expire, that was the single act that could most effectively reduce the deficit without anybody doing anything. On top of that, they added to the deficit by extending unemployment benefits."

He hopes "that the economy will continue to improve to the point where the S&P 500 reaches 1500 by year end. That will restore our nest egg to the point where we will have enough to pay for nursing home care if it becomes necessary."

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