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Retirement doesn't keep Lawson from working

Blanche Lawson.

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Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Blanche Lawson leans back in her chair in the office at Riverside Center in Charleroi. It's a momentary relaxation for the woman who has worked most of her life serving others. Even in retirement, she continues to do so.

Born in Winston-Salem, N.C., Lawson grew up in Rankin. After graduating from Rankin High School in 1956, Lawson “went straight to work” mostly doing office work.

Motivated to go back to school, Lawson attended Community College of Allegheny County and the University of Pittsburgh.

“I hated school, but I was a good student,” Lawson admitted.

She then went on to become a mental health counselor, serving from 1970 to 1980 for Turtle Creek Valley MH/MR, Inc.

In 1980, she and a friend started their own company, Derrick Limited. They did resumes, mailings, and even fundraising for WQED.

“She left for South America with her husband, who worked for Exxon, and I couldn't run it by myself,” Lawson said of her business partner and friend.

The company closed in 1982, but Lawson kept working. Her former boss called asking Lawson to work again for him. She managed 13 apartments and some businesses for 10 years.

During that time, Lawson worked three jobs. She also worked for Sears as a cashier at Allegheny Center Mall, while finishing up work for her company before shutting it down.

After working one summer in 1992 in the mental health field, Lawson went to work at the Center for Disability Law and Policy in East Liberty. She retired from there in 1999.

In that position, Lawson helped clients acquire stairlifts and wheelchairs and made sure their rights were being preserved.

“That job was rewarding,” Lawson said. “That was probably my most rewarding job. Baby sitting, short-order cook, taking care of people's houses – I did it all.”

Lawson, who lost her husband in 1986, has a son, Michael, 50, of Van Meter, and two daughters, Leslie Greenley, 48, of Canton, Ohio, and Jaimie Talia Ferro, 46, of Swissvale.

In retirement, she volunteers at the Charleroi Riverside Center, starting there when the center opened in 2006.

Lawson initially worked in the fitness room at the center. Today, she works in the office at the center. She works Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., calling in lunch orders and keeping the lunch schedule going.

When she's home, Lawson is usually online.

“I'm on my computer all the time,” Lawson said.

Otherwise, she enjoys spending time with her growing family.

“I'm on greats now,” Lawson said. “I have seven great-grandchildren.”

Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or

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