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7 Over Seventy – Judy Weber

You stop working, you die. At least that’s Judy Weber’s philosophy. The 80-year-old founder of Tobinworld has been running her non-profit school for children and young adults with developmental disabilities and behavioral problems for 37 years, and has no plans to slow down anytime soon. According to Weber, the key to staying young is working, and not just working at any job – but at a job that you really love. “I think if people would work past 65, they’d feel a lot better,” Weber said. “Everyone I know (complains about) this ache and that ache and are in and out of hospitals. My feeling is if you keep your mind working you’re not going to be sick or sickly because you’re physically doing something as well as mentally.” Though the Glendale resident just turned 80 in December, she still maintains the same hours she did when she was 40 years younger. Weber responds to emails and navigates social media in the morning before arriving at the office around 10 a.m., and doesn’t leave until about 8 p.m. She boasts of working 50 to 60 hours a week. “There is no way that I will retire; I’ll probably die at my desk,” she mused. Tobinworld was established in 1977 to help Weber’s son, Tobin, now 47. He was born with severe autism, to the degree that he is unable to communicate verbally. For years Weber fought to get him into proper education programs but was often rebuffed and told to institutionalize him. “Tobin was very aggressive as a child and self-abusive, but there were no programs for the autistic in 1977,” Weber recalled. “(One day) I was sitting on a committee at L.A. Unified with other parents of autistic kids and I said, ‘I will start a program but I don’t know how to do it. I can do it if you support me.’” Nearly four decades later, the Glendale campus has expanded to six buildings used to educate and prepare students for the workforce. A few are classrooms, one is an auditorium and another is a treasure store where students purchase “rewards” for good behavior. Also, L.A. County has a mental health clinic on site for students and their families. There are two other Tobinworld schools in Antioch, with a total of 450 students at both locations. It’s a lot to manage, Weber concedes, but if she ever feels overwhelmed, she takes mini vacations to Palm Desert on the weekends with her husband of eight years, Matthew Israel. She said the support of her husband, who is retired, makes it easier to maintain her career. “My husband loves the fact that I am working and he volunteers and helps me here,” she said. Tobinworld has 265 employees, including the assistant director, her son, Tracy Weber, 60, whom she’s grooming to take over once she’s gone. Chris Lougheed, Tobinworld principal in Glendale, has been working with Weber for more than 20 years and said she still has a passion for her job. “She always puts the kids first and she makes sure that she treats the staff as a family,” Lougheed said. – Champaign Williams

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