Name: Emma Connery

Age: 66

City: San Ramon

Previous career: A 27-year job with the phone company, starting at age 19 as a 411 information operator back when the company was called Pacific Telephone. She retired in the mid-1990s, at age 45, from the financial costs department.

Second act: Master Gardener program coordinator for the University of California Cooperative Extension Contra Costa County.

When/how did you discover your new direction in life? I loved gardening all along, loved when I would go into a nursery, loved the plants, watching things grow, the colors. When I retired in '94, I saw an ad for the Master Gardeners training class. I didn't even know what it was. Master Gardeners are accessible to the public to respond to any questions or problems about horticulture, offer educational classes based on university research, anything from drought-tolerant plants, pest issues. I found I just loved solving horticulture problems.

At that time, I decided to go to school. During my whole career at the telephone company, I'd had no college education. So for me, that was like a ticket that needed to get punched. And the gardening gave me a focus as to what I'd love to study.

So I got a bachelor's degree in entomology from UC Berkeley in 1998, then finished a master's in integrated pest management at UC Davis in 2003. I was 56 then. Loved every minute of the journey. Never did I have the feeling I needed to finish school to get on with my life. This was my life, the learning, the growing.

What do you love about your second career? The majority of my work with the Master Gardeners program has been volunteer, teaching entomology to other Master Gardeners in more than a dozen Northern California counties. Then in 2009, the coordinator position opened up, and I stepped up for it. I'm really loving it all. I love the people; the volunteers are wonderful, talented, giving individuals. I still train and teach in several counties. It's just a joy to be doing something I love.

-- Angela Hill, Staff

Did you discover a talent, start a new career or discover your passion for a particular subject matter later in life? Tell us about it. Contact Angela Hill at ahill@bayareanewsgroup.com with your name and telephone number; put "second act" in the subject line.