Yesterday I said farewell to my friend Wally, who died on December 14th, just two months shy of his 89th birthday.
Wally and I first met as neighbors and later became friends when I ran into him a few times at a local breakfast spot. We began chatting and I learned that macular degeneration (or as he called it, immaculate degeneration) had impaired his vision. He said he was able to get by, mostly, but one of the things he missed most was reading the newspapers every morning. Somehow that morphed into me meeting him there every day and reading the paper to him.
That was about 14-15 years ago, I think, and the longer I knew him, the more I admired and was inspired by him.
Wally was dedicated to physical fitness, unwilling to let time or circumstances get in the way of his exercise. He jogged daily until he was hit by a car and suffered a broken knee.
When his knee healed enough, he began walking and working out on a stair stepper for hours every day. He also did 1000 chest presses every day, but as he was quick to tell you, not all at once.
Macular degeneration didn’t stop him from exercising, either. He was able to see enough to get around the immediate area, and so he kept right on walking. Most days he started walking at 4:30-5:00 a.m., took a break for breakfast and paper-reading at around 6:00, then walked for another couple of hours. Then he went home and worked out on the stepper.
Wally’s stamina faded over the past few years, and after an extended recovery period from colon cancer surgery last year, I thought his exercising days were over.
Nope. He bought a recumbent bike.
Wally might not have had the physique, the medal count, or the bank account of an elite-level athlete, but he certainly had the heart of one. He exemplified commitment, determination, and resilience, and his ability to “roll with the punches” served as daily inspiration and motivation for many, including me. (Kind of hard to plead hardship when the blind man with a bum knee and colon cancer is still working out.)
I’ll always be grateful for having had the gift of knowing Wally and for the lessons he taught me. He was one in a million.
For tips and ideas on how you might find a “Wally” near you, check out Senior Moments, the post in which I first introduced you to Wally.