Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tough times don't last - Tough people do : Madoff Victim, 90, Is Back In "The Market"

(CBS News) At the supermarket in Ben Lomond, California, the newest employee is also the oldest - though you might not believe just how old.

"I'm 90, and I'll be 91 in May and, uh, so what!" says Ian Thiermann.

At 90, after 30 years of retirement, Thiermann is back at work for $10 an hour, handing out the weekly specials, reports CBS News correspondent John Blackstone.

Thiermann is here because he lost, big time, when Bernie Madoff was arrested for running his Ponzi scheme and Thiermann's investment manager called to say: "I have lost everything! You have lost everything. And he just almost fainted on the phone," Thiermann recalls.

Thiermann and his wife Terry live in a modest home. Their $700,000 in retirement money seemed like enough to keep them going with some left over for charity.

Blackstone asks: "So you go from being a donor to the food banks to being…"

"A recipient," Terry Thiermann laughs.

Their long term investments turned out to be a long term fraud.

"Every piece of paperwork we received was a lie," she says.

A court document listing Madoff's victims in tiny print runs to an astounding 162 pages. Many on the document lost millions. The Thiermanns though are not focusing on what they have lost, but on what they still have.

So Thiermann, who once owned a large and successful tree care business in Los Angeles, is now selling groceries.

He never complains, says store manager Ron Clements.

"He is that right person. He's that special person," says Clements.

Thiermann's secret may be that he has seen this before - old enough to remember the 1930's when his family lost everything.

"You gotta be positive," he says. "Otherwise life is too short."

Ian Thiermann seems to prove that old saying: tough times don't last, tough people do.