Florence Ayrovainen is no ordinary retiree. She believes life is a song worth singing – literally! The 75-year-old Pfizer retiree is a member of the Hibernian Festival Singers, sings and performs in various other capacities, and recently cut her first solo CD.
“I’ve always been passionate about performing, but I never had the time to do everything I wanted to do … that is, until I retired,” said Florence. “It’s as if I have a second life in retirement. My world is full of music and I am living a long-time dream.”
Florence retired from Pfizer in August 2000 after nearly 20 years of dedicated service. She joined Pfizer in 1981 as a secretary in Pfizer Labs Marketing Services and went on to hold various positions within the group. When she retired, she was serving as a Senior Manager in Sales Administration Field Support.
According to Florence, when she looks back on her many years with the company, she remembers many long work days and challenging projects – but for the most part, she simply smiles. “I enjoyed everything about my positions with Pfizer,” she said. “It was a great place to work. I was privileged to work with a wonderful group of people and I truly enjoyed going to work each day. I feel that my years with Pfizer were very productive.”
She recalled one project in particular that brought her a great deal of satisfaction. “I was involved in the original computer transition for the field force,” she said. ”We were moving into the ‘digital age’ and the work we did changed the way the entire division operated – and it changed it for the better.”
“It was a challenging but rewarding time,” she continued. “As the transition moved on, I was involved with the ongoing upgrades and worked closely with the company that supported the program at that time.”
Another aspect of working at Pfizer that Florence most enjoyed was being a member of the “Pfizer Caroleers.” Participating in this singing group/social club allowed her to pursue her passion for the performing arts while still at work. “Being a Pfizer Caroleer was great fun. Around the holidays we’d perform in the lobby, around the city and at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral. It was through my involvement with the Caroleers that I met Jim Sutton, who was also a member of the Hibernian Festival Singers and insisted I join them, too. I am very grateful to him for making that suggestion!”
Formed in 1980, The Hibernian Festival Singers are an international choir based in Bayshore, N.Y. They’ve performed in Italy, France, Austria, Switzerland and several times in Ireland. In addition, they travel and perform at various venues throughout the United States and often perform locally at libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, fire departments, patriotic functions and assisted living and senior living complexes.
Florence joined the Hibernian Festival Singers in 1995, five years before her retirement. “I’ve loved every moment of singing with the Hibernian Festival Singers, since the very beginning,” she commented. “But once I retired, it got even better!” she added with a laugh.
In her retirement, Florence has more time for traveling with the group. She recalled one trip that had special meaning for her. “One of the most moving experiences I’ve had with the group was singing at Normandy and Omaha Beach in France. We were there to sing at a memorial to WWII veterans. We were shown a film and there was a talk about what it was like when our soldiers landed at Normandy and Omaha Beach. Since my brother was stationed in France during the war, it was especially interesting to me. It was very moving to perform there.”
There’s never a dull moment “on the road” with the Hibernians, as is illustrated by another trip Florence fondly recalls. “Last year we toured Austria and Switzerland, performing in churches and cathedrals there. We sang in a small church were ‘Silent Night’ was first introduced and we visited the church were they filmed the wedding scene in ‘The Sound of Music.’ It was an amazing trip… although the airline lost our luggage. Instead of performing in our usual gowns and tuxedos, we were in our casual clothes and sneakers! We were on such a tight schedule that there was no time to shop. The audiences were understanding of our situation, though, and it was very memorable! We all look back on it and laugh.”
This coming January, Florence and the Hibernian Festival Singers will perform on a Caribbean cruise with Irish Tenor Ronan Tynan, whom they’ve performed with often, including a concert at Carnegie Hall. And as if her time with the Hibernian Festival Singers didn’t keep her busy enough, Florence is also active in her church choir and is a member of the Ms. Senior New York organization where she gives solo performances at their functions. She just recorded a solo CD as a memoir to her family and friends, and has eight grandchildren to keep her on her toes!
“It’s true that I’m busier in retirement than I ever was before, but it’s all been so wonderful,” she said. “If you were to ask me how to make the most of retirement, my advice would be to retire to something. Find something you like to do, and then do it. I love to sing so that’s what I’m doing. I believe it’s never too late to try something new, because when you do it opens doorways to wonderful things.” She paused and concluded with a smile, “That’s exactly what’s happened to me.”