For many of the 40 years that Fred Lowell Petersen worked as a director of human resources, the responsibility of organizing his company's summer picnic often fell on his shoulders.
"Every year, I was the guy who brought the watermelon," he said, remembering how the assignment was often tedious.
But since retiring in January 1996, he's found that the very organizational skills needed to spearhead the summer party have proven to be the very skills that now bless others.
"I didn't want to become one of those who retired without a hobby," he said. He looked at some of his retired neighbors men in his Bountiful 31st Ward, Bountiful Utah Stake, whom he had known for 25 years or more and considered how they were once active, contributing members of society. He wondered how he might help them keep meaningful activity in their lives.
"I thought of one man who once loved to sail, but now never seemed to get outdoors," Brother Petersen said.
So, in a manner of speaking, "I put a watermelon under my arm and organized activities where we could get together as friends. We call the group Out 'n' About. Every month we go somewhere new and do something different. One month we toured the City and County building in Salt Lake City where we saw the rubber footings installed to strengthen the building in the case of an earthquake. Another month we drove to northern Utah to watch the testing of a space shuttle booster rocket. One month we visited the new 31-story FAA air traffic control tower at the airport.
"It took a lot of phone calling at first to get the group together," Brother Petersen said. "Men often find socializing difficult. Many were leery and kept asking, 'What do you want to do?' and 'Why do you want to go there?' Only six attended the first activity. But word spread and activity has since proven contagious. We average 16 a month, with a high of 29," he said.
"We haven't activated anyone yet, but we're friends in ways that we never were before and they know they are appreciated. They see that their lives have more dimension than just the credibility their occupations once gave them."
Some who aren't retired take a day off work to join. Others outside the ward ask if they can participate. "I tell them to start their own. There is a lot of satisfaction hearing these men tell how they take their families on the same excursions we took as a group," he said.
Another in a series of "Shining Moments"
Illustration by John Clark