Posts Tagged With: inspiration


Margot Schneider is 89 years old. She and her husband Horst came out of Germany after WWII with three kids and 17 cents in his pocket. Margot is nearly deaf and Horst is nearly blind. “Well, between the two of us, we are a whole person.” she jokes. Margot says their philosophy of life is “Do no harm to yourself, to others, or to any living thing.” Margot has a special gift with animals and birds. They seem to recognize immediately she will never hurt them.

Horst, at 92, has magnifying glasses all over the house. He uses a computer program called Dragon made by Nuance. It recognizes his voice and types for him. Then it has a reader to read it back to him to make sure he didn’t get misunderstood and typed in loose for juice, or some such. Horst is currently writing a book, and has approximately 200 poems and small short stories on his web site. (He used to build websites for companies at one time.)
He got his start in America by working as a mail-sorter for an insurance company. Before a year had passed, he was working in their accounting department.

He is a self taught computer programmer and built a program for Margot’s knitting business. They had five knitting machines that he programmed for specific garments that she sold. Now, she knits beautiful sweaters, vests and scarves for her grand kids and great grand kids by hand.  Horst has met and worked with some of the famous programmers from Apple and Microsoft. He has technical articles published that are now out of date because technology changes so quickly.

Last year, Margot fell and broke her neck. So, at 92, he learned to cook. Not hamburgers or hot dogs. He likes gourmet food and prepares boef bourgignon, French onion soup and chicken stroganoff plus German specialties they like. Now that her neck is healed, she says, “Let him cook. Its his turn.” Nothing daunts them.

When he was in his eighties, he and Margot volunteered at a State Park. Their finances took a hit and he was looking for work and had applied at Hotels and places where his ability to speak five languages would be of help. “But, they hired young blondes,” he jokes. He was about to take a job as a dishwasher at $5.15 per hour, when the Park Rangers came to him and said they wanted him to take on a ranger’s position.
“A Ranger,” he protested, “I’m too old for that.”  But, it worked for everyone. He translated all of their literature and brochures into Russian and German versions. He taught rocketry to young kids and park biology to others.
Jim wanted to visit one more time with them before they move to Louisiana. (Their house in on the market.) They inspire everyone who meets them. They are the treasure, because they inspire and challenge us to live fully with verve and dignity.

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Last April, I visited with Victoria and Mel Small of Murphys. The Smalls followed a dream of walking across the United States-at ages 59 and 61, a distance of 1,500 miles. That was in 1983. I was so inspired by them, I wanted to write a book on their marvelous trip across the United States. At the time I was a feature writer for a local paper and did a couple of local stories on them. With their approval, I wrote three chapters of a book and a synopsis and sent it off to publishers. In those days, it was considered the death of your proposal if you sent to more than one publisher at a time.  So, it was a long process over a period of months, send and wait, send and wait for an answer. The noes came in,  “we’ve done that before…” “what is different about this trip…” “that’s already been done..” “we don’t have room for a true life adventure this year…”  etc. etc.

Victoria is now 90, and Mel is 88. They were still running 4 miles a day at ages 84 and 82. Than they gave in to walking around the neighborhood. More importantly, they’ve decided to put their many walking and running adventures into a book. Last April, I suggested they get the journals typed, and yesterday, I edited their first manuscript. They insisted that my name should be on the cover and my three chapters included because I inspired THEM.

As I re-read their amazing trip across the United States, and I must tell you, not all things turn out as planned, I was moved to laughter and tears once again.
Tears as Victoria, who was a 95 pound wisp of a woman, ran a marathon with a stone bruise on her foot and won in her age category. And rollicking laughter as Mel, who always trailed pace setter Victoria, picked up a pair of kids handcuffs he had found and put them on. Then, he couldn’t get out of them and tried to hide it from her. What a hoot!
One really fun thing about the journals, besides little drawings and maps of Mel’s, he kept statistics, and a potpourri page at the end of a specific goal with listings of how many pennies, dimes, quarters, etc. they found; any other oddment they picked up, how many truckers blew their horn, how many waved, how many offers they got for a ride and so on. But, the funniest category was how many cars were left running and unattended?  A good thief could have been rich.
I was enriched once more by my time spent with an amazing couple who can continue to inspire me and others with their book.

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Looking at an abbreviated Christmas season, I found myself happily and busily connecting with old friends. At this Christmas brunch, I encountered Betty Prescott, one of those amazing women who is an inspiration to all who know her. At 85, she is still downhill skiing and managed to go five times this year.
A mutual friend, Eleanor Hauselt, ( now gone), was rafting the Grand Canyon in her 70’s and walked the Milford Tract in her 80’s and was a cancer survivor in her 90’s.
Lucy Tryon road horseback across the plain in Spain in her 80’s.
Dutton Smith broke her leg in her 80’s skiing and finally hung them up two yeas ago. Defiantly.
I love it.
I wanna be just like these phenomenal women. Never quit.
Being over the hill can be exciting if the downward slope is loooooong.
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