Walt Jones

Walt Jones

From Chicken Soup for the Soul 20th Anniversary Edition

Walt Jones

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.

~Joseph Campbell

No one better epitomizes the fact that success is a journey and not a destination than the many green and growing “human becomings” who do not allow age to be a deterrent to accomplishment. Florence Brooks joined the Peace Corps when she was 64 years of age. Gladys Clappison was living in the dormitory at the University of Iowa working on her Ph.D. in history at age 82. Then there was Ed Stitt, who at age 87, was working on his community college degree program in New Jersey. Ed said it kept him from getting “old-timers’ disease” and kept his brain alive.

Probably no one person has stirred my imagination over the years more than Walt Jones of Tacoma, Washington. Walt outlived his third wife to whom he was married for 52 years. When she died, someone said to Walt that it must be sad losing such a long-time friend. His response was, “Well, of course it was, but then again it may be for the best.”

“Why was that?”

“I don’t want to be negative or say anything to defame her wonderful character, but she kind of petered out on me in the last decade.”

When asked to explain, he went on to add, “She just never wanted to do nothin’, just kind of became a stick-in-the-mud. Ten years ago when I was 94, I told my wife we ain’t never seen nothin’ except the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She asked me what was on my mind, and I told her I was thinkin’ about buying a motor home and maybe we could visit all 48 of the contiguous states. ‘What do you think of that?’

“She said, ‘I think you’re out of your mind, Walt.’

“‘Whydya say that?’ I asked.

“‘We’d get mugged out there. We’d die and there wouldn’t be a funeral parlor.’ Then she asked me, ‘Who’s going to drive, Walter?’ and I said, ‘I am, Lambie.’ ‘You’ll kill us!’ she said.

“I’d like to make footprints in the sands of time before I check out, but you can’t make footprints in the sands of time if you’re sitting on your butt... unless your intent is to make buttprints in the sands of time.”

“So now that she’s gone, Walt, what do you intend to do?”

“What do I intend to do? I buried the old gal and bought me a motor home. This is 1976, and I intend to visit all 48 of the states to celebrate our bicentennial.”

Walt got to 43 of the states that year selling curios and souvenirs. When asked if he ever picked up hitchhikers, he said, “No way. Too many of them will club you over the head for four bits or sue you for whiplash if you get into an accident.”

Walt hadn’t had his motor home but a few months and his wife had only been buried for six months when he was seen driving down the street with a rather attractive 62-year-old woman at his side.

“Walt?” he was asked. “Yeah,” he replied.

“Who was the woman sitting by your side? Who’s your new lady friend, Walt?”

To which he replied, “Yes, she is.” “Yes she is what?”

“My lady friend.”

“Lady friend? Walt, you’ve been married three times, you’re 104 years of age. This woman must be four decades younger than you.”

“Well,” he responded, “I quickly discovered that man cannot live in a motor home alone.”

“I can understand that, Walt. You probably miss having someone to talk to after having had a companion all these years.”

Without hesitation Walt replied, “You know, I miss that, too.” “Too? Are you inferring that you have a romantic interest?”

“I just might.” “Walt...” “What?” he said.

“There comes a time in a person’s life when you knock off that stuff.”

“Sex?” he replied. “Yes.”

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, because that kind of physical exertion could be hazardous to a person’s health.”

Walt considered the question and said, “Well, if she dies, she dies.”

In 1978 with double digit inflation heating up in our country, Walt was a major investor in a condominium development. When asked why he was taking his money out of a secure bank account and putting it into a condo development, he said, “Ain’t you heard? These are inflationary times. You’ve got to put your money into real property so it will appreciate and be around for your later years when you really need it.” How’s that for positive thinking?

In 1980 he sold off a lot of his property in and around Pierce County, Washington. Many people thought Walt was cashing in his chips. He assembled his friends and quickly made it clear that he was not cashing in his chips, but he had sold off the property for cash flow. “I took a small down and a 30-year contract. I got four grand a month comin’ in until I’m 138.”

He celebrated his 110th birthday on the Johnny Carson Show. He walked out resplendent in his white beard and black hat looking a little like the late Colonel Sanders, and Johnny says, “It’s good to have you here, Walt.”

“It’s good to be anywhere at 110, Johnny.” “110?”

“110.”

“1-1-0?”

“What’s the matter, Carson, you losin’ your hearin’? That’s what I said. That’s what I am. What’s the big deal?”

“The big deal is you’re within three days of being twice as old as I am.”

That would get your attention, wouldn’t it? One hundred and ten years of age — a green, growing human becoming. Walt picked up the opening and quickly alluded to Johnny.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know the date you were born and there weren’t no durned calendar to semi-depress you once a year? Ever heard of people getting depressed because of a calendar date? Oh, Lordy, I hit my 30th birthday. I’m so depressed, I’m over the hill. Oh, no, I hit my 40th birthday. Everybody in my work team dressed in black and sent a hearse to pick me up. Oh, no I’m 50 years old. Half a century old. They sent me dead roses with cobwebs. Johnny, who says you’re supposed to roll over and die when you’re 65? I have friends more prosperous since they were 75 than they were before. And as a result of a little condominium investment I made a few years ago, I’ve made more bucks since I was 105 than I did before. Can I give you my definition of depression, Johnny?”

“Go ahead.”

“Missing a birthday.”

May the story of Walt Jones inspire all of us to remain green and growing every day of our lives.

~Bob Moawad

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