- Associated Press - Friday, January 9, 2015

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) - Beverly Garrison was 15 when she dropped out of Saginaw High School and got married in 1955.

The Saginaw great-grandmother recently went back to school and earned her GED diploma. At 75, she graduated from a Bay City beauty school as a licensed manicurist, according to The Saginaw News (https://bit.ly/1xx8C2W).

Garrison hopes others will see her story and chase their own dreams as the new year begins.

“I hope it inspires someone else,” Garrison said. “That’s not only for the younger generation, but for the older generation, also. You’re never too old. Each day you let pass you is a day that you can’t go back and pick up.”

Garrison’s road to graduation wasn’t without detours.

She had two children, one each with her first and second husbands. Her family lived in Detroit, Ypsilanti and Saginaw at different points. She worked at the University of Michigan hospital in Ann Arbor and Ford Motor Co. in Ypsilanti.

During that time, she used drugs including heroin - which she quit after an arrest in Romulus in the 1970s, she said. Still, she battled other addictions.

Substance abuse took a stronger hold on her life when she was in her 40s, when she separated from her third husband.

“I was lonely after that,” she said. “I met some people and started hanging around them, and I felt like I had to do what they did in order to maintain the relationship.”

Her alcohol abuse grew to the point that, she says, clerks knew to give her “the big bottle” when she went to liquor stores.

“I would wake up drinking and go to sleep drinking,” she said.

Garrison was in her late 40s when she inherited a 10-bedroom Saginaw home from her grandmother, in the mid-1980s. It was used as a boarding home, which Garrison continues to run today.

“When she died, I just picked up where she left off,” said Garrison, now a grandmother of two and great-grandmother of two.

Garrison remembers the date she decided to make a change.

“I got tired of being sick and tired of chasing the bottle and the crack pipe,” she said.

Her mother came to Saginaw for a visit on Oct. 3, 1991.

“I walked in the bathroom one morning, and I looked in the mirror and said, ‘Girl you can do better with yourself than this,’ and that’s when I asked my mom for help. I told her I wanted to go home with her.”

Her mother was ready to help.

“I heard about HealthSource, and she called out there and they told her she could bring me now,” Garrison said. “My mom said, ‘Well, come on, baby, before you change your mind.’”

HealthSource was known then as Saginaw Community Hospital, offering recovery following stroke, brain injury, mental illness or substance abuse.

It was during this time Garrison became familiar with art, a skill that later would serve her as a manicurist.

Janece Rechsteiner, mother of the former Bay City pro wrestlers known as the Steiner Brothers, taught Garrison about ceramics, mold-making and painting. Rechsteiner was the art instructor in HealthSource’s substance abuse recovery program.

“She came through our unit, and she decided that she would come back and work with me after her stay in the hospital,” recalled Rechsteiner, who has lived in Akworth, Georgia, for the past 15 years.

“She was ready to get her act together, and she was willing to learn. Whatever she wanted to do, I taught her.”

Garrison celebrated 23 years of sobriety Oct. 2.

Now sober for more than two decades, Garrison is seeing that her story has a happy ending.

Garrison was attending an out-of-town wedding a few years ago when a family member commented on the artwork on her fingernails.

Garrison told her that she did it herself, and the relative suggested she become a licensed manicurist.

Garrison returned home and called beauty academies, but she was told she needed a high school diploma in order to enroll.

“I enrolled at Saginaw High in 1955,” she said. “I enrolled in the fall and dropped out and got married in January.”

Nearly six decades later, Garrison enrolled at Carrolton School District’s OMNI adult education program in 2012. She was 73.

“It took me 14 months” to obtain a GED, she said.

“I entered Bayshire Beauty Academy January 29 of this year.”

Garrison finished graduated from the Bay City beauty academy during the summer and became licensed by the state of Michigan as a manicurist in August.

“If I did it, you can too!” is printed at the bottom of her graduation pictures.

“For her to go back to school after all of these years, that is quite an achievement,” Rechsteiner said.

Lisa Goodrow, an instructor at the beauty academy, agreed.

“That’s quite an accomplishment, to go back to school at that age and get your GED and become a nail tech,” Goodrow said.

Goodrow said Garrison was dedicated to completing her goals.

“She was a very hard worker,” Goodrow said, “always one of the first students that walked in the door.”

Garrison said she has always been active.

“I tell people I move so fast that age can’t catch me,” she said. “My pastor asked me if I was going for my doctorates next.”

___

Information from: The Saginaw News, https://www.mlive.com/saginaw

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