PRIME TIME: Schenectady native, now 87, busy in third career

Though he retired after more than 37 years with General Electric, Mario V. Farina is still working.

Though he retired after more than 37 years with General Electric, Mario V. Farina is still working.

After GE, there were 10 years at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he was a teacher. And for the past 10 years, he’s been employed by the state Department of Labor.

He’s also a World War II veteran and the author of 22 books on a variety of topics.

Farina, 87, who lives in Troy, says he has no plans to stop working.

Debi Filkins, who works with Farina at the Labor Department, said, “He won’t quit. He doesn’t want to quit. He wants to continue to be a productive member of society.”

Though Farina has had various jobs throughout his life, he deemed his three main careers as GE, RPI and the Labor Department.

Farina was born in Schenectady. After graduating from Mont Pleasant High in 1941, he worked for American Locomotive Co. on Erie Boulevard until he was drafted to serve in World War II at the age of 20. After basic training, Farina was sent briefly to Syracuse University and the University of Illinois to study topics related to engineering — calculus, chemistry and physics.

During the war, he served as a radio operator in China and India.

In 1947, he went to work at GE and remained there for more than 37 years, first as a clerk and later as a computer programmer. Farina has a brother, Anthony, 85, who is also both a veteran of WWII and a GE retiree.

Computers are now one of Farina’s strengths, but it was only by chance that he learned programming. He said he was “bumped” from his position as a clerk at GE, and when he went to the employment office to look for a job, computers were what he found. “I had no idea what a computer was,” he said.

He learned fast and got a job as a programmer in 1958.

Farina not only taught himself to use a computer, but also taught many classes on the subject, primarily at GE and RPI between 1964-1994. He has also taught evening classes at Saint Rose, Schenectady County Community College and Union College. The tech-savvy senior now also has his own website.

Farina also had his own business during this time. “I was what they called a traveling photographer,” he said, shooting weddings and other events for 10 years. While at GE, he also completed a degree in business at the College of Saint Rose when he was 50, after working toward it at various colleges.

Author of 12 textbooks

Farina is the author of 12 textbooks on topics such as programming language, mathematics and data processing.

The books were published by Prentice-Hall and have been translated to Russian, Danish, Spanish, Arabic and Japanese. He has also self-published 10 books and is currently writing another: “The Life, Wit and Wisdom of an Octogenarian.”

After GE, Farina for a decade taught computer classes full-time at RPI. For the past 10 years, he has worked at the state Labor Department as an examiner.

“People ask me when I’m going to retire and I say, ‘When I get old.’ ”

Filkins said that rather than retire, Farina decided to take Fridays off and considers this a “semi-retirement.” But now he comes in on Saturdays for up to 6 hours to make up for the lost day.

In 1987 Farina’s first wife, Sally, passed away at the age of 62. The two had married in 1949 and had four daughters: Kristina, Kathleen, Kirsten and Karen.

Farina met his current wife, Ann, in 1993. “She was looking for someone, and I was looking for someone and we found each other through our writing.” He met Ann when she submitted writing to the New Authors Journal. “We liked each other, and more than that, we were fond of each other, and we decided we were going to get married.”

Many hobbies

Farina has many hobbies, with writing at the top of the list. He is also interested in numbers and enjoys investing, day trading and making and breaking codes. He and his wife have also sold over 6,000 items on the Internet auction website, eBay. She secures, cleans and handles the transactions, while he writes the descriptions and takes the product photographs. Ann says, “The two of us are like Frick and Frack.”

They also collect cars and, at one point, had 12. Farina even built a car himself — a convertible English roadster. Farina and his wife also have a cat, Lefty. “We lead a very interesting life,” said Ann. Farina added, “Every day is an exciting day.”

Filkins says he “is quite an amazing man” with “extreme motivation, dedication, and a great sense of humor, which keeps him going.”

Farina hopes his life encourages the elderly and keeps them hopeful. “They don’t ever have to stop being of service to mankind. If they want, they can continue throughout life. I don’t ever intend to stop.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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