Twenty-seven years after he retired from his job at Walco Equipment, Frank Walter is retiring again. This time, after more than 35 years, Walter is retiring from delivering Meals on Wheels.
Walter, 91, was recently recognized by Community Care Concepts for his 25 years of volunteering with the agency. Having been with CCC since it started, Walter is the longest-serving volunteer, but he’s been delivering meals for more than a decade before CCC existed.
When Frank and his wife Beatrice moved to Elmira in 1968, the meal program was run by women from several local churches, operating out of St. James Lutheran Church. One of the women approached Walter and asked him to help deliver meals. Since his job gave him some flexibility during the day, Walter agreed.
“At that time, I remember we delivered the meal and we also collected for it,” he said. “It was a big relief later when we didn’t need to collect for them.”
The hot meals went to seniors in Woolwich and Wellesley townships, from Paradise Lake to Bridgeport and Maryhill.
Helping out must be in his blood, Walter said. Growing up on a farm near Macton, he would check if his mother had any chores for him to do, then make himself useful at neighbouring farms and his grandparents’ 200-acre farm.
“If we had our farm work done, I’d walk through the fields, a complete section, just to get there and help.”
Volunteering was also a way for him to repay the help he and his family received.
A few months after their second child was born, Frank was stricken with rheumatic fever. This was in the spring, when crops were being planted and hay cut. For three months, he was confined to his bed, at times delirious with fever and unable to even feed himself. Family and neighbours pitched in to help Beatrice care for their two young kids and the farm.
The doctor came every day for a while, but the Walters never knew what the bill was. Every Saturday, they would go to his office in Linwood and put however many dollars they had at the end of the week toward the bill.
“One Saturday night, he surprised me,” Frank said. “He said ‘I don’t want any more calls from you. You’re paid in full.’ They don’t do that any more.”
Walter eventually made a full recovery, and a specialist told him that he should do something lighter than farming if he wanted to live a full life. Having been married for 68 years now, with eight children, 14 grandchildren and more than 20 great grandchildren, Walter reckons he’s had that full life.
After he retired from Walco, Walter drove the bus for Elmira and District Community Living. When the Kiwanis Club of Elmira purchased a lift-assist bus to transport seniors to day programs, Frank had the F-class licence required and volunteered to drive it.
“He’s such a kind, caring individual – really gave a lot to this community through this agency,” said Veronica MacDonald, executive director of CCC.
Any time he was offered any payment, Walter declined, saying the job itself was reward enough. The seniors on his routes were always pleased to get a hot meal and chat for a few minutes.
“The last while, certainly, a lot of them were younger than I was,” he noted.
Beatrice went with him on his deliveries for many years, saying it was better than sitting alone at home.
“She was my navigator for the last two years. We didn’t get lost, either,” Frank chuckled.
Sharon Walsh, coordinator of the Meals on Wheels program, said the agency will miss its most senior volunteer.
“He’s a wonderful volunteer – always willing, always able to go, always happy to do it,” Walsh said.
Although he enjoyed doing the deliveries, Frank said he won’t regret his decision to retire.
“I’m not one to look back. I know it’s done and over, and time to do something else instead.”