Looking to the next phase in life
After growing up in Washington, but being 23 years away in Mt. Pleasant, Karen Bates Chabal returned to Washington in late November to take the job of office assistant at the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in Washington County.
After graduating from Washington High School, Chabal attended the University of Iowa in Iowa City to study journalism. After college, she landed the job of community news editor at her local paper — The Washington Evening Journal. While there she met her future husband, Ed Chabal. After the two were married, she took a job in the Iowa Wesleyan University public relations office. The couple moved to Mt. Pleasant.
While living in Mt. Pleasant, the couple raised two children — Ryan and Kathryn. As the two have moved on to college, Chabel said she and her husband chose to return to their home county (Ed Chabal is from the northern side of the county).
What brings you back to Washington?
I still owned my family home. My husband and I were looking to have a home that was a little bit newer than the one we owned in Mt. Pleasant — we owned a 150-year-old home that we put on the National Historic Register and my husband renovated that completely. Since we had been there about 20 years, we were looking at doing the same things over again. He thought it was a good time to take a little more free time and relax rather than doing home repairs again. We have a nice family home here. That sort of prompted our decision to move back. That and we have family here. My mother-in-law is here. We are glad to be back in her town so we can visit with her.
What are you going to do with the 150-year-old house in Mt. Pleasant?
We are going to be selling that. We just got through the holidays and we are going to be selling that home.
Since you have been back, what do you think of Washington?
It’s been great to renew some old ties and build some new ties. There are a lot of connections we still have here with people we have worked with in our careers, to friends and neighbors. It is a wonderful community and we are happy to be back. It is fun to get to know some of the new parts of Washington too. We have always been close in touch because of our families here.
With Mt. Pleasant only being about 30 minutes away, did you ever feel you had really left Washington?
You do, when you move to a new community and raise children in a school district. All our close friends we had developed over the last 20 years are there. You don’t forget about the people you grew up with here, but you develop a new social circle in the friendships you create. That is a change, but it is only 30 miles away and my husband still works for Mt. Pleasant in the Mt. Pleasant School District, so he is there a lot and I am in touch with my friends quite a bit too. It is nice being 30 minutes away so you are not out of touch with folks.
Since you have been back, what is your favorite thing about Washington?
People won’t understand the answer, but the snow. We moved just the week before Thanksgiving and I started my new position here just a couple of weeks after that and we have had a lot of snow this winter. We have been enjoying the beauty of the community and as the seasons move on I know there will be other things that will become my favorites, but I’m kind of a winter fan.
How did you get involved working with ISU?
I saw there was a job opening here. It reminded me of the possibilities here that are similar to a number of the positions I have held. I have always worked in the public relations field. I worked with volunteers a lot with the Midwest Old Threshers when I was their public relations coordinator. That is a volunteer-driven organization and of course with the major event over Labor Day, our Washington County Fair that the extension office is so involved with is similar to that. I knew there were really wonderful information programs and services that the extension offers. I’m learning a lot about that because the things the extension offers are so broad. It is something I enjoy. I enjoy learning on the job. There is so much to learn here and that is what drew me.
What are some of your hobbies?
My husband and I are antique collectors and dealers, so we enjoy that. We also like to read and bike and swim.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
Well, having just started the empty-nest time in our lives, I guess we are looking forward to lots of contributions I hope to be able to offer the extension office. Ten years from now we will probably be looking at our retirement plans and what fun we hope to have in our retirement together. At that point my children will be of an age where they may start families of their own. We will be looking to that next phase in life, which will be exciting. It is a little hard to imagine, but we have really come from one phase in our life where we have raised our children and made this return to our home county. You really do look to that next phase.