No Quitting Allowed

Linda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – A lady by the name of Doris Haddock (1910-2010) walked all the way across America in her 90th year. Doris, aka “Granny D” began her walk in Pasadena, California on January 2, 1999, and stood on the steps of the National Capitol on February 29, 2000. She kept a diary, just as I wrote Posts during my Journey Across America. Her book “Walking Across America in My 90th Year,” written with the assistance of Dennis Burke and a foreword by Bill Moyers, was published by Villard Books, a division of Random House, in 2001. This retired shoe-factory worker from New Hampshire and great-grandmother of twelve walked for a cause: national campaign finance reform. Along the way she gave speeches, collected signatures on petitions, and listened to the world around her. She followed her heart. I am pleased that I was able to hear Granny D speak about her trek, and her beliefs, during the book tour that brought her to Seattle; I met her and have an autographed copy of her book. Go Granny D we all said to this petite lady in the huge hat, standing before us that night. Granny D was a feisty thing, an ordinary citizen who chose to become an outspoken activist. Wikpedia has a page about her, if you care to read more; according to it, she was arrested in the National Capitol in April 2000 for reading aloud from The Declaration of Independence! She entered a plea of “guilty” and made a statement to the court that “I was reading from the Declaration of Independence to make the point that we must declare our independence from the corrupting bonds of big money in our election campaigns.” She was sentenced to time served, and a $10 fee. Granny D ran for a US Senate seat at the age of 94, and continued lobbying for campaign finance reform all the way to her 100th year, with praises from President Jimmy Carter and Senator John McCain.

Another “author at 91” that I was fortunate enough to know personally was Virginia Wing Power (1906-1997); her book was “Ginny’s Chairs” (BookTree Press, 1998). This amazing woman was born in historic Bulloch Hall in Roswell, Georgia; the house is now on the National Historic Register, a pre-Civil War home and also the birthplace of Mittie Bulloch, mother of Teddy Roosevelt. Theodore Roosevelt Sr and Mittie were married in the elegant dining room in 1853; Ginny stood in the same spot for her wedding to George Power in 1928. Bulloch Hall is open to the public today as a museum; “Ginny’s Chairs” is still for sale in the bookstore there; it offers a ringside seat to the changing times of the twentieth century.

Ginny grew up in a place of neighborly farms, oak-bordered creeks, small-town nosiness, and a houseful of ghosts. She wrote her first poem at age 5 (dictated to her mother). After her father’s accidental death when she was 11, genteel wealth changed to boarding-house necessity, and Mother returned to teaching school. Two special things of note about Ginny’s life; in 1941 she joined the American Red Cross when husband George was assigned overseas duty. She drove a truck in buzz-bombed London, worked in a field hospital on the front lines, and was almost captured during the Battle of the Bulge. In the 1950s she co-founded Senior Neighbors in Chattanooga, working with Ollie Randall of the National Council on Aging in New York; it’s a leading senior center today. Ginny wangled with city leaders to get an appropriate building; she finagled all the furnishings; she got things up and going. One of my favorite Ginny comments came from the second meeting of this newly formed group; someone asked her what she was going to do to entertain them. “Nothing!” was her answer. “There are refreshments to be fixed and served, now come on, let’s all get busy.” Getting people involved was her greatest legacy; she inspired so many people her influence can never be tallied. She sent young people to college, taught exercise classes to seniors, and made everyone who came in contact with her feel useful. Active to the last, 91-year-old Ginny died a few days after meeting with her gardener to discuss placement of 4,000 new tulip bulbs for spring.

Reading books written by Little Old Ladies in their 90s really shines up the possibilities in life. Whatever your age, are you doing something useful? Are you setting a good example? I think about those laying it on the line and running for political office during this major election year. Perhaps you are tired of the media blasts and disillusioned with the campaign rhetoric. Do not let that stop you from participating, from speaking up, and most certainly, from voting. Local, state, national; at every level government is about public service and remember, you and I are that “public;”  we are part of the problem and the solution. Granny D walked clear across the country hoping to make a difference; she kept on speaking up till she was a hundred years old. Ginny ordered 4,000 tulip bulbs for spring even when she was sitting in a wheelchair and connected to an oxygen tank,  doing her part to make the world a prettier place.

Quitting is not an option. Now come on, let’s all get busy.


Order Books

Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year by Doris Haddock

Ginny’s Chairs by Virginia Wing Power

Read About Bulloch Hall