Let me introduce you to Floyd Alverson, who at age 99 – soon to be 100 – is quite a celebrity of sorts at The Gardens at Jackson Creek, a senior living community in Independence, where Floyd's fourth-floor apartment is his home.
What's so special about this World War II veteran, who spent three years as a Navy Seabee constructing naval shore facilities in combat zones in the Atlantic? The asphalt walking trail circling The Gardens bears his name in recognition of what he's best known for – faithfully walking the one-third-mile trail every day – sometimes two or three times a day – rain or shine, if possible.
“I started walking two hours a day when I came out here two years ago,” he says slowly in a gravelly voice during a recent interview at The Gardens in which Amy Gonzales, executive director of The Gardens, was present for support. When the former civil engineer isn't strolling on the recently named Floyd Alverson Trail, he takes on a servant's role at The Gardens, she says, noting, “Everyone loves Floyd because he is a gentleman. He is polite to everyone and he really serves a lot of people. He pushes ladies in their wheelchairs to their rooms, pulls out chairs for them and is very chivalrous.”
The accolades, though, don't stop here. With Floyd's ever-present smile, his laughter and his sense of humor, “He's a joy to be around,” Amy says. “He is an inspiration, really, because he didn't use a cane until the last few weeks. You think, 'Can I do that? Can I live to be 99 and keep on walking?' And I think that's what keeps him going.' ”
Floyd will tell you of his surprise when the Floyd Alverson Trail sign was unveiled on Oct. 25 with many of The Gardens residents in attendance. Though most residents knew about the metal sign, Floyd was not one of them. He was outside walking when residents attending the big monthly meeting inside The Gardens decided to honor Floyd, who used the trail more than anyone else, in anticipation of his upcoming 100th birthday on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14.
“We didn't want to wait until he turned 100, because the weather could be bad, Amy explains. “So (the residents) said, 'We want to name the trail after Floyd. Can you order a sign?' So I ordered the sign, had it put up and placed a bag over it so when he saw it (for the first time), he wouldn't know what it was.”
And he didn't.
“Everyone knew what was going on except me,” Floyd recalls. “I didn't know a thing.”
On the day of the unveiling, as Floyd was walking outside unaware of what was going on, a large group of residents slowly walked to the covered sign at the end of the sidewalk. There, standing behind the sign, was Floyd, who answered the maintenance director 's call for a tall person to step forward and help remove the sign cover to the applause of those assembled.
What pleased Floyd the most about the sign was its location, he says, noting it could be seen when coming down the street and turning the corner. Says Amy, “When you come to the very end of the road, if you look at the parking lot, there is the sign.”
Floyd, who walks at different times in all kinds of weather, will tell you he was in the right place at the right time two weeks ago when he “saved the day” for a woman who had fallen on the trail while walking her little dog. He tried to assist her. Not knowing the victim or when the mishap occurred, he sought immediate medical assistance at The Gardens.
Says Amy: “We didn't get her up. We went and got staff members and called paramedics. They came, assisted her and got her up. She was OK and is doing fine. We were so glad Floyd was out on one of his walks so he could come and get us to help her.”
As for Floyd, it wasn't long into the interview before his sense of humor emerged. Asked where he was stationed in the Navy – the Pacific or Atlantic, he quips: “Keep on going. You are going to get there.”
To the question, what is your daily walking routine? He quips, “Getting up.”
Asked if he was born in Independence, Floyd replies, “I didn't say that.”
Then where were you born? “I wasn't there,” he quips, which was his way of saying he doesn't remember where he was born. “All I know is that I was born way out in the country somewhere.”
Congratulations Floyd. May all who walk on this trail named in your honor enjoy it as much as you do, thus keeping your memory alive.
-- Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.