A woman in a man’s world

A woman in a man’s world

By Lexie Jordan

 The “she cave” in Greenspring Senior Living Community tells you all you need to know about recently retired army officer Alison Tichenor, who is 71. 

Coated in scarlet and gray, the homage to Ohio State University is apparent: The sign hanging above the seating area saying “WOMAN CAVE” with the “O” being the Ohio State logo makes it quite obvious. 

There is a plethora of Army accolades and memorabilia that decorate the room with an American flag waving on the back porch. It is also home to Tichenor’s beloved stuffed goose, Gabby.

Alison Tichenor’s stuffed goose, Gabby, in her Cinco de Mayo outfit. (Courtesy Photo)

The extroverted Tichenor maintains an open-door policy in the community. Her blue nails and bright colored shirt add to her charm, and her quick wit is something that cannot be missed when in conversation with her. 

As the oldest of four sisters, leadership came naturally to Tichenor. Her father was determined that she and her sisters were going to be women in a man’s world, which is apparent considering the careers of herself and her sisters: a soldier, a minister, a teacher and an economist. 

Growing up, Tichenor and her family moved frequently due to her father’s job. She was born in New Haven, Connecticut, but spent most of her adolescence in Wilmette, Illinois, which is where she met her husband of 52 years, Charley. 

“I met him on the first day of high school of my freshman year on Sep. 4, 1964,” Tichenor recalled. “That Friday was the street dance and he danced with my best friend first, and then me. Once I danced with him, I never let go.” 

The pair got married seven years later while attending Ohio State University. Tichenor was studying math and computer science and Charley was in the university’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corp studying business; however, she was unable to graduate, having left after her sophomore year to follow Charley for his job. 

The newlyweds traveled to nine different cities in nine years. Charley was working in the fast food industry and Tichenor was working in various banks while studying at multiple schools to receive her bachelor’s degree. 

At a bank in Norfolk, Virginia, Tichenor was helping a fellow male employee review his finances and noticed discrepancies in their salaries. Upon noticing this, she filed a formal charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission due to equal pay discrimination. After a two-year legal battle, she won the case. 

“I don’t take ‘No’ lying down. I stand up for what I believe in, and I think that’s because of the way I was raised with four very talented, educated women,” Tichenor said. 

In 1980, Charley was called to active duty. While saying their goodbyes, Tichenor realized immediately the Army wife culture was not suited for her. 

“I went to his first hail and farewell and the women went to one side and discussed soap operas and neighbors and kids, and I didn’t fit in,” Tichenor said. 

In 1981, Tichenor finished her bachelor’s degree in business at Strome College of Business at Old Dominion University, then enlisted in the Army. 

“If you can’t fight ‘em, join ‘em,” she said with a laugh. 

Since Tichenor was 29 at the time, she needed an age waiver, as 29 was seen as too old. In order to do so, she went through the Officer Candidate School. She graduated in 1982, and then started her nearly 22 years of active duty at Fort Meade, Maryland, in the Finance Corps. 

While at Fort Meade and pregnant with her only child, Charles IV, Tichenor got her master’s degree in public administration at Central Michigan University in only seven months. Typically, the program takes about two years. 

She was a lieutenant until 1986 when she was then promoted to captain, where she spent eight years working in finance. She spent a solid portion of her career both in active duty and in the reserves as an Operations Research System Analyst testing weapons. 

During her time in active duty, she – and the unit under her command – were stationed in Asia, Europe and across the United States. She had plenty of entertaining stories about her work, but Charley said they never discussed work at home. Since they were both highly ranked, there was no need. 

At the start of her time in the reserves, Tichenor was only one of two women on the team of 42 people. Tichenor spoke little about what it was like to work on a male-dominated team. When she enlisted in the 1980s, the women constituted less than 10% of the Army and many of them were nurses. 

Tichenor never let this stop her. 

This determination stayed with Tichenor throughout her time in the Army. She recalled how she had little fear squaring up to the men that would test her. 

“Look, if you don’t listen to me, I know where to put this pointy toe shoe. It will hurt,” Tichenor said with a wink. 

In 1994, Tichenor went into the reserve component and for the next 16 years she worked with the Army Test and Evaluation Command and spent the first eight of those years with a part time job as a management analyst in the Finance Corps. During those years, she earned her Ph.D. in information technology at George Mason University and survived breast cancer twice in 2001 and 2003. 

Starting in 2011, she worked as a Senior Operations Research/Systems Analyst until October 2022 when she retired from more than 40 years of service. 

“Who knew that I’d be associated with the U.S. Army for 41 years, eight months and three days,” Tichenor said reminiscently. 

Nowadays, Tichenor spends much of her time at the Greenspring Senior Living Community in Springfield, Virginia, where she has the “she cave,” also known as her office. Tichenor also has an apartment half a mile away in another facility where she’s lived with Charley since 2015. 

As a recent retiree, Tichenor did not want all of her energy to go to waste, so now she co-manages a local thrift store, Treasure Chest. 

“I did not put in my retirement papers until I was confirmed to work at Treasure Chest. I wanted some place to put this energy,” she said. 

The majority of Treasure Chest’s revenue is dispersed among various causes, Tichenor’s favorite being the college fund for high school students that work at Greenspring. After a philanthropy event hosted at Treasure Chest on June 9, 2023, the scholarship fund totaled more than $10,000. 

Besides Treasure Chest, Tichenor spends her time with Gabby, a stuffed goose that sits outside the “she cave.” Every so often – whenever Tichenor has time – she puts a themed outfit on Gabby. 

The community adores Gabby and her newly introduced goslings handcrafted by Tichenor. She said Gabby has been a huge help to her in starting new relationships at Greenspring; since her door is often open, people will stop by to say how much they love Gabby. 

“Gabby is a source of endless entertainment,” one passerby said during his greeting. 

Tichenor has an area of the closet in the “she cave” dedicated to Gabby’s outfits. She makes the outfits herself, buys them from Etsy or gets help from neighbors. For example, one neighbor made a patch and another gave each of the goslings little hats for Cinco de Mayo. 

“[Gabby] has been a great way to meet people. Oftentimes people will stop me and be like, ‘Oh you live where Gabby lives,’ and the conversation goes from there,” Tichenor said. 

Tichenor has been regarded among friends and loved ones as someone who lives life to the fullest, and has certainly kept herself busy. Knowing Tichenor, there’s a lot more to come.