If it ever rains again, stop into the Santa Monica Public Library and look up. The watertight roof was the responsibility of civil engineer Jack Marion, 84. In the six years he's worked for the city he's never had a roof that leaked.
Marion retired from an engineering job with the federal government in Massachusetts when he was 67, moved to Florida, remarried and, before long, relocated to California. He decided that retirement didn't really suit him.
"I wasn't old enough to play golf," he said. "Then I saw an ad in The Times for an associate civil engineer for the city of Santa Monica--the only city I would consider working for."
Marion placed second on a competitive exam, but he also had 32 years of job experience, so that made him the No. 1 applicant. Then he had two interviews with the city's top engineers and they gave him the job.
"I worked for it and competed. And then, at 78 years old, I was back on my feet with a second chance," he recalled recently from his City Hall office. He gets to the office at 5 a.m., and by the time the staff arrives he has all his reports ready. He works three days a week and loves it.
Marion described his work in minute detail as he ran through the procedures he oversees from bidding to construction.
"A lot of it is common sense, and you don't need to be an engineer," he said. But in a way, he said, the civil engineer's job is creative, "because it has to do with the necessities of life--sewers, water drains, sidewalks, highways, and the structural strength of buildings."
Marion is the roof expert. He climbs one every day. Sometimes he uses the staircase and sometimes he calls for a city ladder truck.
"I know my limitations. I don't run up the ladder. But it's something you learn the hard way because they don't teach roofs any more in college."
When the work begins, Marion goes out to check the workmanship. The library roof was a half-million-dollar job that he oversaw.
The Marions live in Beverly Hills and own a condo in Las Vegas, where they vacation every week--but not to gamble. Educated as a mathematician at Northeastern and Harvard, Jack doesn't like the odds, so he and his wife, Lillian, enjoy the shows and the buffets. He has figured out where the best buy is for the least amount of money.
Marion is looking forward to his new project, which is to prepare plans for renovations of several city parks. Right now he's looking into how to improve the lighting and wall covering in the Ocean Avenue Senior Recreation Center. "I'll give them quality materials that last for a reasonable amount of time for the least cost," he said. In the engineering business that's called "life cycle."
Marion figures that with any luck he's going to be around until at least 100. He can't wait for the next day to begin and for the next challenge to consume his imagination.
Here is a selective list of major centers and agencies that offer programs and services for seniors on the Westside:
*Olive Stone Center, 1440 Harvard St., Santa Monica (213) 829-2228.
* Culver City Senior Center, 4153 Overland Ave., Culver City, (213) 202-5856.
* Felicia Mahood Senior Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 479-4119.
* Westminster Senior Center, 1234 Pacific Ave., Venice, (213) 392-5566.
* Senior Health and Peer Counseling Center, 2125 Arizona Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 828-1243.
* West Hollywood Senior Center, 7377 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (213) 851-8202.
* Westside Independent Services for the Elderly (WISE Senior Services), 1527 4th St., Santa Monica, (213) 394-9871.
* City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, 200 N. Main St., 13th floor, Los Angeles, (213) 485-4851.
* Hollywood Senior Center, 6501 Fountain Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 465-2158.
* Crenshaw/Baldwin Hills Senior Center, 4000 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 291-5928.
* Santa Monica Senior Recreation Center, 1450 Ocean Ave., Santa Monica, (213) 394-1227.
* Older Adult Service and Information Center (OASIS), 6067 Wilshire Blvd., 5th floor, Los Angeles, (213) 931-8967.