Seniors & Aging

Ever higher horizons draw retiree to explore nature

Name: Earl Cilley

Age: 73

Residence: Fairhaven

Early memories: Born in 1935 in the formerSt. Joseph Hospitalon North Forest Street, Cilley says he remembers looking up into the kind face of a sister holding him.

Early education: Cilley attended elementary school at the Campus Schoolat Western Washington Universitywhere he picked up touch-typing, "one of the most useful things I learned." His parents sent him to private school on the East Coast, where they came from originally. "Lucky for me," Cilley says. "I wouldn't have known how lovely this place is."

Building a career: After he tired of the East Coast, Cilley moved to California and attended Stanford Graduate School of Business. He returned to Bellingham around 1962 to help run the new FM radio stations sprouting up in the area. In 1965, he found work in research and development at his alma mater. Until he retired in 1990, he was charged with negotiating and managing research contracts and grants, and helped develop an intellectual property policy for the university.

Hitting the heights: "When I retired, I felt I'd done something positive with my life," Cilley says, and was free to spend more time on personal interests like mountaineering with the Mount Baker Hiking Club.

New horizons: Now he has time to visit the bigger peaks in South America, Europe and Alaska. "There's a lot of world to see." His last, "perfectly wonderful," trek was to the Himalayan mountain Chomolhari in Bhutan.

Grand adventures: Cilley enjoys helping with science-based inquiries and field research since retiring. He spent part of July in eastern Wyoming counting wolves, assisting a naturalist with determining how large the pack had become and studying their habits in a rarely visited park corner.

He rowed through the Grand Canyon in April, and joined an Earthwatchproject on the west coast of Mexico, taking a census of wildlife to conclude how to ascertain the normal bird and animal population.

Lifelong passion: "I've always been interested in the environment and things related to it," Cilley says, since he hiked around Bellingham as a child and witnessed reaped and damaged forests and hillside erosion into the river. The trail of brown silt from the Nooksack Riverdelta into Bellingham Bay"was a lot worse when I was a kid," he says.

Living with limits: "Human beings' bodies are only engineered to last a fairly short time," says Cilley, who no longer rock climbs or skis. "Various parts wear out at different points. I've been fortunate that modern medicine fixes enough that it doesn't inhibit what I do."

In good shape: Fitness is critical, he says, citing friends who don't exercise as evidence. "Part of it is chance, but a lot of it is diet and exercise."

"It's due to staying as physically active as you can, even when the weather's rotten," he says. "Go for a long walk!"

Peace of mind: Reading, staying active and interested in the world around him helps Cilley thrive. He's currently on a board to decide how the Bellingham Greenways programshould use Woodstock Farmto make the estate a viable and accessible recreation area for residents.