Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pete, Still Putting Us All to Shame

My uncle Pete.  Still volunteering at 91

Nothing can shame a person like a 90-something dude who can work you under the table.

That would be my uncle Pete.  At nearly 91, Pete is a wonder, but he leaves people shaking their heads both in awe and in shame.  

Pete is the first person to offer to help with a project, plus he has this really cool old truck that is just perfect for driving around the yard.  A motorized wheelbarrow, it is.  So, last week I called and asked if he had time to help cut back some out-of-control bushes.

Cutting day arrived, and with it, 90 degree temps.  That is another annoying thing about Pete.  He seems totally unaffected by the heat and humidity that threaten to kill those of younger generations.

I arrived home from a shoot to find Pete's truck in the street but no sign of him.  I looked around a bit, then went inside to make a couple smoothies.  20 minutes later and he still hadn't surfaced.  I assumed he took a walk and ran into someone to visit with.  Pete has a black belt in visiting.  But, it turned out he had found a weedy bed on the side of my garage and was quietly pulling away.

Mostly Pete and I worked together, but he's good at self directing and finding areas that need tending.  He'd been out of sight for a while when I decided I should look for him.  I circled the house and just as I came from my side yard to the front, my heart stopped.  Like the wicked witch in the Wizard of Oz, a set of legs were visible at the corner of the house. toes pointing to the sun.

Certain he'd had a heart attack, and wondering how I was going to explain this to my aunt and cousins, I rushed around the corner, only to find Pete sitting on the ground, pulling on some ivy that was threatening to take over a corner of a bed.

Pete's philosophy is that if you stop working just because you are 90, death will be able to catch up with you - so he cheerfully and graciously keeps plugging along.  He walks a mile or so every week to his Kiwani's meeting.  Last year, he tripped over a curb, breaking his glasses and his nose.  Someone who saw it happen forced him to have a doctor look at it, but that didn't stop him from walking in a benefit walk 3 days later.  He thought he'd just walk a couple of the 6 miles, but once he'd started, he completed the entire walk.  This year, at nearly 91, he did the walk again.  Probably didn't even wear him out.

Last year, at his 90th birthday pancake party - to which his entire home town of Parsons Kansas was invited - the city proclaimed it "Pete Hughes Day" in honor of his life-long support.  He grew up in Parsons and has lived his entire adult life there, always fully involved.  A whiz at raising money - be it for the community foundation which he helped start, the community college building fund, a local festival or for plants to help the town look nice - Pete is as happy meeting with community leaders or rolling up his sleeves and mowing a lawn and pulling weeds.

We need more Pete Hugheses around. In fact, with the government shut down fully under way - I'd like to grab several hundred spoiled politicians and have them come to Parsons -  take a lesson on real stewardship from my uncle Pete.

Pete, it has been an honor - and I hope we have many more weed pulling sessions, pizza dinners and long chats together.

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