By Peg Lopata, Contributing writer
Waltham – Even when she was a young woman, Jan Latorre-Stiller, now 68, worked on behalf of elders. Perhaps, it’s just that she’s a naturally caring person. Perhaps it’s because she’s had some personal experience with people who have challenges. She’s the kind of person one has difficulty imaging being cross or mean. Her smile comes easily, her concern for others always evident. Let’s just say she likes to help others—it’s just who she is.
Not surprisingly, she admires and is inspired by others who have served or continue to serve the greater good, such as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, respectively. Latorre-Stiller said, “These are noteworthy people who have made a huge difference in the quality of life for so many people, one who was willing to put his life on the line for that purpose.”
But she also admires the legions of lesser-known people who serve their communities.
“I believe that there are so many everyday people who deserve our gratitude and recognition for what they do, some against all odds, to improve the lives of others,” said Latorre-Stiller.
Though Latorre-Stiller is modest, she’s among those legions. She has made it her purpose to improve the quality of life for others her entire working life. She’s had a long career working for nonprofits. Soon after she earned a bachelor’s degree at Northeastern University, she was chapter director for no-longer-in-existence Living with the Elderly, an advocacy organization for long-term care residents. Her next position was senior director for Soar 55, an organization that provided pro-bono capacity-building services to area nonprofits. She worked at this position for 23 years until this program was discontinued. She was 64 at the time.
Whereas some might retire at this point, Latorre-Stiller just isn’t the type, despite her many other interests, such as painting, books, good food, good conversation, learning, going to museums and being in nature. She wanted to continue to serve the community directly.
She explained, “I have always been drawn to work that empowers individuals in some fashion and that provides opportunities for people to grow and contribute.”
When they needed a new executive director at Cambridge Neighbors, a nonprofit that helps elders age-in-place, Latorre-Stiller saw this as her own personal opportunity to grow by continuing to work on behalf of others.
“I want to keep on doing some good in the world through my work,” noted Latorre-Stiller.
She began her work at Cambridge Neighbors just over a year ago.
However, work isn’t everything for Latorre-Stiller. She’s done more than just worked to make other people’s lives better.
“I’ve built a good life despite some adversities and am enjoying some wonderful, loving relationships—including my dog, Manny, my two and half-year old bundle of love,” she said.
Latorre-Stiller has lots of other loves as well. She loves the mountains, children, animals, art, books, the ocean and hiking in the woods. She’s also committed to environmental and social justice causes. But those interests are not ready for her full-time attention.
As she said, “My hope for my future is to continue doing some good in the world through my work.”
Retirement? Not too likely for this woman.