Gary Tuma’s Statement Announcing Retirement

With great gratification and bitter-sweet emotions, we cheer for Gary as he continues onto the next chapter of his life. Gary has been with Walker’s Point Center for the Arts for nine years and brought tremendous stability and progress to the organization. We will miss him dearly and look forward to stories from his  adventures. ~Kate

Below is a statement from Gary:

With great appreciation and anticipation, I am retiring on August 15, 2014 from 50 years of work life. Yes, I know at 62 years of age it’s hard to believe a person can have worked 50 years. Maybe a bit of history will help.

Photo by John KarpinskyYou see, I grew up in family farm country where hard work was a given from the earliest of age.My classmates where milking cows at 5 a.m and again at 6 p.m. Not being a farm kid did not save me from child labor. In 1966, I was carhopping and flipping burgers at my parent’s drive-in in Medford, Wisconsin. Several years previous I began my work life emptying garbage cans, cleaning toilets and child sitting for younger cousins and mowing grandma’s lawn.

Now 50 years later, I end a diverse and exhilarating career which included: janitor, window factory worker, presidential campaign field coordinator, university research associate, youth employment specialist as well as serving as deputy director of Project Equality of Wisconsin, executive director for Kindcare and the National Conference for Community and Justice. On January 1, 2014, I ended my professional career as executive director of Walker’s Point Center for the Arts and stayed on part-time during the transition.

I came to Milwaukee 37 years ago to attend graduate school at UWM and lived in my Riverwest neighborhood all of these years. During my time in Milwaukee I have immersed myself in the life and pulse of this city. Working on political campaigns, volunteering and service on the board of directors of the Nonprofit Center, Riverwest Community Development Corporation, Gordon Park Food Cooperative, First Hub Credit Union, Milwaukee Public Theatre and as president of the Human Relations Radio and Television Council.

All along the way, it has been other people who have taught me, inspired me and did much of the work. It always good to have so many people “have your back” for so long. Photo by Anna Maria Contreras Bosses, co-workers, board members, colleagues, friends and neighbors have transitioned in and out of my life. Many are gone from this world. But their influence and impact remain as part of my daily reflection of what is good and enduring about humanity and those who make a difference in our lives. gary3

One gets a bit nostalgic with age and during significant life changes. This year has been a particularly reflective year with my career transition and the death of my mother in April. Looking back over these many years, I am in awe of my colleagues, co-workers and the many people who have been a part of my nonprofit career. From working to end racism, advocate for the disabled, improve neighborhoods and ensure equal opportunity I have been surrounded by passionate and committed people. I now leave the paid world of work to travel, learn, reflect, garden and maybe in a year or two return as a volunteer for some greater cause. But for now, the garden needs to be hoed, the world needs to be traveled and the house trim painted. Your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Gary Tuma


Photo credit: John Karpinsky, Anna Maria Contreras,  Lona Long Velasco

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