Encouraging women to evolve and create new opportunities at any age.

Building a Village- Global Grannie’s Style


In our book, Eavesdropping, the Pages strongly urged readers to create their own “villages” – support systems strong enough to endure the challenges of aging.  In the May newsletter, I introduced you to the Global Grannies.  This group has taken the concept of creating a village to a global level!  I learned about these remarkable women and the organization they started when they were interviewed on National Public Radio.  The following is from their website: See
“WE ARE GRANNIES WHO LIKE TO TRAVEL. We take all opportunities to learn, travel, see, do and meet many interesting people. We leave our complaints, aches and pains at home and pack SMILES, LAUGHTER AND CURIOSITY. We have flexibility in all situations, because that’s why we travel— to enjoy new and different experiences in our lives. We don’t sweat the small stuff because at our stage of life, we know it’s all small stuff.
In the fall of 1995, when three of us found ourselves alone after many years of marriage, we decided we had to take control of our lives and have the courage to begin again in different directions, on our own. Since we all liked to travel, it seemed natural to join together--after all, singles in a couples’ world was not what we wanted. We wanted to travel by ourselves without fear in a safe, comfortable environment. We had so much fun together, and we wanted to share it with others who like to travel and had the same interests as we did. Therefore, we organized in 1997 as the Global Grannies. Our membership continues to grow as we are recognized throughout the Mountain States and in the Travel Industry. “
I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about this lively group. Fortunately, I was able to contact Jody Nunley, one of the founders, and I asked for an interview to be posted on our website. They agreed to talk with me, and recently, I had the pleasure of talking with all three of the founders, Jo Lou Knoll, Jo-Ann (Jody) Nunley, and Mary Lou Wagner. Their lively conversation was interesting, enjoyable, and surprising. All three women were born and raised in Montana, but they and the members of the organization they founded in 1997 could never be described as root-bound. Members of the group have now traveled to all the continents, and a quick look at their website’s calendar of upcoming trips could make your head spin! I was amazed to learn that their membership has grown to about 300 women.  
Jo-Ann (Jody) Nunley
I spoke first with Jody, who said her whole life has changed since the three friends began to travel together and formed this growing organization. “We work out of our hearts,” she said. Jody’s enthusiasm about her life today, her love of friends and family, and of course, traveling is evident. It’s not hard to picture her as the cheerleader she was in high school or when she, as president of a college sorority, presented a dozen roses to Eleanor Roosevelt. As a founder of Global Grannies, she’s still urging people to action and extending accolades! She sings the praises of her children and grandchildren, saying that “My family is always my first priority.”

Like many women I’ve known, Jody completed her education after marriage and having children – eventually earning a Master’s Degree in elementary education.   Although most of her years of teaching were in her native Montana, she also taught Egyptian children in Cairo, Egypt. During that year, she didn’t miss an opportunity to sample other cultures as she traveled around Thailand, Greece, Turkey and the Mediterranean. For the last six years, as part of her new career as a marketing representative, she travels to cities across the U.S. to conventions for educators.   And, of course, she works hard as one of the founder/coordinators of Global Grannies, joining with them for travel and other activities.  
Jo Lou Knoll
I wondered how founding and coordinating this successful and growing organization had changed their lives. Jo Lou promptly volunteered, “I’ve become more independent. Our generation of women normally traveled with our spouses.” Then she talked about the changes in her family’s response to her involvement in the organization. She said that at first, they made good natured fun of her, but that she now enjoys their admiration and respect.
I’m not surprised her family had to adjust their thinking about this lady. As she wrote in her biography: “I was born at the last of the Great Depression and never left Billings except for one year at the University.” She describes her childhood as wonderful and carefree with lots of supportive family within a short walking distance. Until she was in high school, her family “didn’t even own a car.”  For 41 years, she was married to Jim Knoll, who she knew from high school. After his return from the Korean War, they married and had two children. Jo Lou eventually went to work as an elementary school secretary, working for the school district for 32 years.
After Jim died, Lo Lou went to New York City with her friends, Mary Lou and Jody.  She described this trip as quite an adventure and as a very successful first endeavor. She’s now traveled to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Italy, Vienna, Greece, Kenya, China and the Scandinavian capitals. Her motto is “busy is good” and since Global Grannies has become a full time job, she is happily engaged.  
Mary Lou Wagner
I asked the group, “What aspects of Global Grannies are your favorites?” Mary Lou responded that, “We had hoped for a support group, and we have been so enriched by our members and new friendships.  It’s been a humbling experience.”  Mary Lou says, “I am still a country girl at heart.” She was born in Montana and raised on a ranch. “I always had my own horse and loved the Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Gene Autry movies...” 
Following graduation from the University of Montana with a BS in Business Education, she moved to Billings where she worked and then married Gene, a firefighter for the city. They raised two children and were married for 38 years before he died. In the 70’s, she returned to college and obtained a Library Endorsement, which enabled her to work for the Billings School District “mostly as an elementary school librarian.” Although she retired from that work in 1996, she has certainly been busy ever since. In addition to the “full time job” with Global Grannies, she has joined with the members to travel to Canada, Europe, Kenya, South Pacific, China, Costa Rica, the Panama Canal, Caribbean, Mexico, and destinations within the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. 
Obviously, these three women have many positive characteristics: determination, tenacity, enthusiasm, loyalty, friendliness, and their religious faith - just to name a few. But, as I told them, I was curious if those factors were enough, by themselves, to account for the remarkable growth and success of their program. Jody commented that they think Gourmet Grannies has met a great need. They suggested that the crucial factor might be “the loving care” they've given members.  The three founders address “holistic needs” of their members, visiting them in hospitals, sending flowers on birthdays, honoring their charter members. “We have a passion for them.” They don’t JUST travel together. They have Gourmet Grannies who host 2 dinners a year, a chorus called ‘The Silvertones,’ Line Dancers, monthly socials and monthly local outings. Their 15th annual convention will be August 6, 2014 in Billings. I’m sure a good time will be had by all!

"Everyone needs a village of her own making."

Tell us about building your village.  We'd love to hear from readers and welcome Global Grannies members to share your experiences.


From Edie's Bookshelf

One of my favorite subscriptions is OPRAH magazine.  And one of my favorite regular features is “What I Know for Sure.  In the June issue Oprah recalls Maya Angelou, who died shortly after this publication was issued.  There were two quotes from Maya Angelou that I think are worth sharing.   
When asked what it was like to turn 80, she said, “Baaaby, the 80’s are hot!  You want to try and make it there if you can.”  And finally, “Be patient with young people. …  You were young once, too.”
Wonderful reminders of the joys of collecting birthdays and tolerance for the younger generation who don’t always take our wise advice.
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