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Tuesday 23 July 2019
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Living Their “Retirement Dream” : Authors, Charles and Cynthia Casteel

Story by Kelly Harley • Photos by Sheila Scott
Retirement can mean different things for different people. Some travel, play golf, spend time with grandkids or
simply wake up every day and relax. For one Pooler couple, their retirement agenda looks a little more like a
full-time job. In fact, if you meet them, it may be hard to imagine that they are what you call “true” retirees.
According to them, they are living what they call the “retirement dream” by using their years of experience to
make a difference in the world. At ages 71 and 67, they don’t plan on slowing down in their journey to touch
the lives of those who are in need. They are on a mission to make a difference.
Charles Casteel grew up in Tampa, Florida in the 1960s. Living in the projects, he was raised by a single
father along with four siblings. He was a typical kid and says he never got in trouble with the law. However,
school didn’t come easy for him, especially math. In eighth grade, his math teacher knew that there was
something special about him and she pushed him. She became a foster mother to him and with her motivation,
he became an A student. “She was the inspiration and the motivation behind me,” says Charles. “I would hear
her bragging about me to the other teachers and I knew I couldn’t let her down.” From then on, Charles
excelled. He went to Florida A & M University and majored in mathematics. After graduation, he worked smart
and spent 41 years as a corporate executive and information technology expert.
Cynthia Casteel’s career path was slightly different from her husband. She was raised in the beautiful
countryside of Chesapeake City, Maryland, far from the projects. She says she was born to be a teacher and
made her cousins play school endlessly and no one could be the teacher but her. She had two aunts who taught
in Delaware and a visit to their classroom sealed the deal. She was going to be a teacher, too. “It was my
mission,” she said. After graduating from Morgan State University in 1974, she spent 35 years teaching
elementary and late middle school. Cynthia says she was also born with a pencil in her hand, so it seems. She
has always loved writing and can remember creating stories and plays when she was a little girl. Today she still
writes motivational plays, stories and poems and she has put on major drama productions in the Maryland and
Delaware areas.
The Casteels’ were living in Maryland when they decided to officially retire. At that time, they had no idea
that Pooler would be their new home. They recall the one time that they were heading to a reunion in
Tallahassee, Florida. To break up the drive, they pulled into a hotel off Interstate 95. When they opened the
trunk, Charles realized that he had left Cynthia’s suitcases at home. They ended up shopping at the outlets
located at Highway 204 and Interstate 95 and realized they were in Savannah. They knew nothing about the
place, but the next year, they were heading to Disney and decided to go into the city for some exploration. “We
drove through and saw the moss-covered trees, the squares, the tourists, and the horse-driven carriages. We
thought this was the most beautiful city and one of the best-kept secrets,” Charles said. For the next 10 years,
Savannah was their pre-vacation spot and finally their retirement spot as they found their dream house in
Pooler. “There was hardly anything in Pooler at that time, but we knew there would be growth. Now everything
is here, and we have great weather, like Florida, but we are not that far from my sweet Maryland,” says Cynthia.
At the beginning of their retirement, Charles says they would stay up late and then wake up with nothing to
do. They were confused and didn’t even know what day it was. They knew that they had to add more purpose to
their lives. They realized that something had to give. As destiny would have it, one day they were walking in
the Savannah Mall and noticed a sign that said Virginia College. They both applied for jobs and Cynthia was
hired due to her teaching experience. “Every single day I would tell the dean of the college that they needed to
hire my husband,” Cynthia said. Charles, who had never taught before, was finally hired. “I was so impressed
with his teaching demonstration. He is so enthusiastic and has turned out to be one of the best instructors you
could ever have. I know he learned from me,” jokes Cynthia.
Virginia College was a short-term assignment for Cynthia, but Charles continued to teach math and business
until the college closed. When Cynthia isn’t busy writing, planning major social events, attending concerts or
managing four Facebook pages, she finds time to substitute teacher. She likes to substitute mostly at New
Hampstead High School. She likes doing this because it gives her another opportunity to stay connected and
relevant to the young people and it gives her the opportunity to sneak in a lesson about following their dreams.
Charles recently accepted a position with Point University and some days he is on the New Hampstead campus
where students can take college courses while still in high school. “A lot of young people in Savannah have low
expectations and are used to low-income jobs. I want them to know that they can do better,” stated Charles. “I
tell them to break the mold and don’t settle for less.” His wife shakes her head in agreement to his statement
Aside from reaching students by teaching, the power couple found another way to reach youth. Both have
written books and are hoping their words will resonate with the young people, especially, African American
boys. For Cynthia, this is her second novel. With the negative news and all the daily shootings taking place
across the country and in Savannah, she says she wanted to do something rather than complain and point the
finger. The purpose of her second novel, “I Am My Brother’s Keeper, Not My Brother’s Killer” is to awaken
young people about the consequences of killing each other. In the novel, she tells the story of a young character
by the name of Malachi who has a choice to join a gang or go to college. The fictional story takes place in
Savannah and is packed with lessons for young people. It also has a very shocking ending. “I want young
people to realize how painful it is for parents and families to have to bury their children or family members,”
said Cynthia. “I don’t believe young people are aware of what goes on from the time the mortician is called and
the funeral process starts. It’s a very painful process, especially when it’s a senseless death,” said Cynthia.
Charles’ book takes his readers on a different journey, but he also targets young people. This is his first book
and he says his students at Virginia College inspired him to write it after hearing so many of Charles’ stories
about how he dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly. The book is titled, “Think, Innovate and Execute:
Getting It Done” and challenges one to become interested in mathematics, science and engineering. He hopes
his book will motivate, stimulate and lead young people to become critical thinkers and problem solvers. “My
book takes you through 39 stories about my struggles and how I went from the projects to where I am today,”
Charles said proudly. “In the end, if you know how to think and be innovative, you have the skills to get the job
done, and that is exactly what employers are looking for in employees,” he added.
The dynamic duo, Charles and Cynthia believe that, even in retirement, they can still be good role models for
young people. They are determined to make a difference and have an impact on others. “I want to stay
connected to the young people. They are our future. If we help them, we help ourselves. Maybe some young
person will read my novel and it will change their life. If I have helped one, then I have made a difference,”
Cynthia assured.
Charles said, “I want kids to know about my successes and failures and how I ended up being the go-to-guy. I
tell to take the challenge and be the one to say yes.
Even if you fail, you can still learn from the experience.”
The Casteels say they have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon and will stay involved in mentoring,
encouraging, motivating and loving young people. They are forever committed to working together as a team,
to reach more youth and will continue to keep busy in order to make a difference. “Doing what we do keeps us
energized. It’s a blessing,” concludes Cynthia.




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