Joan Larsen on The Good Life: the Secret Ingredient

Posted on August 7, 2013


By Joan Larsen



Let us rather run the risk of wearing out

rather than rusting out.

-Theodore Roosevelt


Few people still alive remember World War II as more than just a horrific war at a certain time in history.  But to those who served in that war, the terrible memories of those years of service seem like only yesterday.  The stories, told by those who are still alive, are told in detail – as if it were yesterday – that it is no surprise to me that the popularity of  reunions of those who had served renew a private bond they shared.  There is continued need to “talk it out once again”, see those who were in combat with you.  And yes, see those who might have saved your life.

But – for my friend, now 93, who served in the 35th Photo Reconnasissance Squadron in China in 1944-1945, living on a dirt airstrip originally developed by the Flying Tigers in Western Yunnan province on the east side of the Himalayan Mountains, going for a reunion is futile.  Only 3 men are still alive out of 10 officers and about 40 enlisted men that flew or worked on the 3 P-38 airplanes that were operating.  


But he could call the other two this year.  A mini-reunion by phone would have to serve.  And so last week he called up his former mechanic on the flight line, expecting an hour of catching up on life – and looking back on another time when our country was at war and the two of them were in the thick of it.

Loren Wade during WWII.

Loren Wade during WWII.

And so he dialed his friend whose life he shared on that remote dirt airstrip so long ago.  .   . and was told that his WWII buddy “was still at work”.  “At work?”, he thought.  “Yes”, he was told, “this day was Loren Wade’s 101st birthday but there was no day off for him.  He clocked in at 9am to his job at the Winfield, Kansas, Walmart, ready as ever for his shift.”  He called at lunch hour.

Loren Wade today.

Loren Wade today.

Loren Wade told my friend that he enjoys working, saying it keeps him active and beats sitting at home doing nothing.  He has worked there 5 days a week, 6 hours a day for the last 20 years and estimates he walks 2 to 3 miles a day on the job, and – of course – is the oldest person working at a Walmart store worldwide.

The employees honored his wishes for a low-key ceremony but still had several surprises to wish him a happy 101st birthday in style.  Everyone walked outside to release 101 balloons, within each a little note for whoever happens to find it.  In  each balloon was a little card with instructions to mail the card to the store’s address.  And, of course, there was punch and cake to top it all off.

But within an hour, Loren Wade was already back at work, still reflecting on the day’s celebration.

“I can hardly believe it”, he told his war buddy, “it was fabulous”.  But there was no time to talk.  Loren was needed at work.

I pulled up what I consider a very amazing story of Loren’s life at Walmart that you must see (below).

ScullAs for my 93-year-old friend in North Carolina, he isn’t home in the mornings either.  He can be found sculling on the bay daily, speaking before groups on his own forays into the wilder parts of the world that are the most “mind-blowing” tales that I have ever heard, being an active member of a large Aquarium board, and writing a book (already accepted) about some of the wildest and most never-told experiences during WWII that I have ever heard of.

Yes, both men have been fortunate that they have largely escaped the ills of old age.  But each of them has such a positive attitude toward life and living it to the fullest that may have been the “secret ingredient” needed for the good life in the years far beyond the norm.

I’d like to think so.


JoanAvatarWriter Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”