Act Two is an occasional series highlighting life changes by area residents. These life shifts could be due to choices made in retirement -- the "re-engagement" phase -- or as a result of discovering new arenas or taking action on a lifelong passion that had lain submerged. In any event, these change offer an opportunity to rewrite the script of one's life. If you know of an interesting Act Two story, feel free to email your suggestion to larn...@arnoldagency.com.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After 29 years at the West Virginia Public Service Commission, Dannie Walker wasn't looking for a new career. He had no idea he would wind up doing what he's doing now -- and loving it.
A transplant to West Virginia, the proud Nebraska Cornhusker made his move to the Mountain State after college and service in the Army. As an electrical engineer, he found a home at the telecommunications section of the PSC after serving in a similar role in his native state. He eventually became the manager of that group.
Life was good for Walker and his wife, Barbie Dallmann. They raised a son, Britain, and both enjoyed building their careers. So, when retirement came along, he just chalked up "gainful unemployment" as the next phase in his life.
Until that tug came along.
Call it a classic midlife crisis if you want, although it was a passion that had possessed Walker for a long time. He didn't think it was going to happen. And then, on July 1, 2012, his dream came true.
"I had pretty much given up on that dream," he said. And then the vision appeared -- a 1986 "Husker Red" Corvette with a white convertible top. "It's the first year they went back to the ragtops," Walker explained. "A local guy was selling it."
Much to his wife's chagrin at first, the rest is history. "There are two groups of Corvette enthusiasts," he says. "One group likes to restore and show them, and the other group likes to restore and drive them. Count me in the group that likes to cruise."
It didn't take long, though, for Walker to learn how expensive his new hobby was going to be. "I decided to find some part-time work to support my passion," he said.
Fast-forward to Aug. 22. He applied for a part-time job at Home Depot and was hired. "I didn't know that much about Home Depot," Walker said. "I was just looking for some involvement and a little extra money."
What happened next was totally unpredictable.
"The immediate satisfaction I get from helping someone solve a problem is so gratifying," he reports. "At the PSC, I would conduct inspections and tests, analyze data, write reports and participate in hearings. I worked a lot with accountants and attorneys. While that's all very important work, there were lots of times I never really learned the outcome of my involvement. And, now, I get hands-on results -- right away!"
Walker finds the camaraderie, team spirit and corporate culture at Home Depot extremely fulfilling.
"I love being 'Dan the Tool Man,'" he says. "I even go home after work and research do-it-yourself projects and various tools so I can give better advice to our customers. It also keeps me on my toes learning about all kinds of different ways to provide solutions."
He was retired for several years before getting involved in this new direction. At one point, his wife, Barbie, asked if he was bored. "I answered no," he says, "because I thought being bored meant not having enough to do. That was never a problem. But maybe I wasn't excited about what I was doing.
"Now I get a real sense of accomplishment every day. If I sold the Corvette tomorrow, I'd still want to work there. Home Depot's philosophy is that the customer comes first. And they mean it.