By LANCE CRANMER LCranmer@nationalchurchresidences.org
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio – Otto Tuttle glances around the table at his friends and speaks with a wry smile.
“If a guy starts a story at this table,” he said, “there’s six guys who finish it.”
“The problem with these guys,” adds Bill Cyrus, pointing out his friends one-by-one. “He can’t hear. He can’t hear. And he doesn’t talk.”
“I don’t have to talk,” Art Jones quickly replies in his defense. “He does all the talking.”
They call themselves the ‘Six Old Men’ at The Glade, the independent senior living community that is part of National Church Residences Chillicothe in southern Ohio.
Dick Miller, Ray Barber and Ken White, along with Tuttle, Cyrus and Jones, comprise the group, which ranges in age between 85 and 102.
The conversations drift from stories about family, to their friend “Preacher” – the Rev. Quentin Lockwood, one of the original “six” who passed away in March 2013 – to the war, to current (and sometimes not-so-current) events and everyday life.
But no matter the topic, there’s one defining theme.
“The objective of this group is to laugh,” said Cyrus.
Cyrus no longer lives at the Glade – opting instead to move back home with his son – but each morning he returns to spend a few hours with his friends.
“I can’t get away from these guys. This is the only thing I’ve got going,” he said with a grin. “They can’t make it through breakfast without my help.”
A while back, Cyrus decided to write a short story about the daily breakfasts shared at the Glade. That idea for a short story eventually developed into a poem titled “Six old men.”
In Ohio’s first capital city
where time and culture haven’t swayed
in a hotel not far from the center
live six old men at the Glade.
The Glade is their retirement facility
four stories and two on a grade
built for independent live alone living
are the six old men at the Glade.
These men are all World War II veterans
whose rooms have their trophies displayed
and these men enjoy breakfast together
these six old men at the Glade
The oldest is called the captain
at five score and two he is grayed
or maybe his face just got wrinkled
before he came to the Glade.
The other are not far behind him
at five score they will have a parade
whether they make it or not
their beliefs will remain unswayed
They huddle close around the table
since their hearing and seeing are frayed
they discuss was the world worth saving
these six old men at the Glade.
They admit there has been much progress
with housing and roads all remade
but promises this was the last war
have never been kept as conveyed.
They pray all things will get better
from the sacrifices they and others have made
they pray the world will become peaceful
these six old men at the Glade.
“I just wanted to do something, and I did it,” said Cyrus. “I wrote a story about us to start with. Then I wrote a poem.”
“Six old men,” both the poem and the men themselves, are popular at the Glade.
As friends come into the Glade for breakfast, each one stops at the table to say hello. At mention of the poem, a woman at a nearby table excitedly offers to go fetch her copy from her apartment.
Naturally, when the poem is discussed, the breakfast conversation smoothly converts from Cyrus’ writing to the experiences each of the six had in the war.
“Everybody here was in the Navy,” said Jones, who, as each of his friends will point out, was a veteran of five separate invasions in World War II.
“He,” Cyrus said, pointing to Miller, who at 102 years old is “The Captain” referenced in the poem, “was on a ship that was there when Japan surrendered.”
“As a matter of fact,” Miller replied, “I was on the first ship to enter Tokyo Bay after the war was over.”
The six old men can undoubtedly share a wealth of stories – frequently jumping in to finish each other’s.
“I can’t believe that it’s been 70 years,” said Tuttle.
No matter how serious the story, though, the six old men always find a way to interject humor.
Mid-conversation Cyrus reaches in his pocket and produces a SmartPhone. After a short conversation he hangs up at looks at his friends.
“If I don’t call my daughter every morning she calls me to make sure I’m still alive,” he said.
As usual, the six old men share a laugh.
“A lot of times when you get to this age, you don’t always feel very good,” said Miller with a grin on his face. “You can’t laugh so much because your stomach hurts.”