Andy Steele reports that classmate Jeff Reder volunteers for an agency that gives rides to those in need. The agency asked if he could write something for their monthly newsletter and he thought he’d share it in ’65 Class Notes:
“I always had it in the back of my mind that when I retired I would make time to volunteer in some capacity. I wasn’t sure what form that would take, but since I enjoy driving I thought that perhaps I could find a spot driving folks for the Red Cross or a similar agency.
And so it happened that in the fall of 2015 I saw a story in the Hancock Happenings, our town newsletter, that introduced me to CVTC, the Contoocook Valley Transportation Company, as it was then called. A phone call lead to an appointment, and I met with staff at their office in Peterborough, where I filled out the application paperwork. After completing the Driver Registration form, as well as the paperwork for a release of my motor vehicle record and a criminal background check I waited for the all clear to drive.
Within a week or so the necessary I’s and T’s were dotted and crossed and I was ready to drive for CVTC. That was about November of 2015, and I’ve been driving ever since. I usually do a drive or two a week, and it’s been a privilege, in retirement, to give back.
We drive all sorts of people. Usually, but not always, seniors, and typically they’re going to a doctor’s appointment, or the dentist, or physical therapy, or the supermarket. Some have physical challenges. They might require a walker, or oxygen, or both. And some just need to get to work, but don’t drive.
I’ve gotten to meet dozens of interesting people over the almost three years I’ve been driving, and it’s been a wonderful experience. One of my rides, a former WWII fighter pilot was typical. We bonded over our shared love of flying (I flew sailplanes with a soaring club in CT), and the second time I drove him he showed me, as he’d promised, a photo of his airplane. He also brought along a poem he wanted to show me, but when the ride was done, he (and I) forgot to look at it.
To my surprise, my phone rang that night and my rider was on the line. He apologized for forgetting to show me the poem, which, as it turned out, was one I knew through my time as a pilot. It’s called High Flight, and was written by a WWII Canadian Air Force pilot named John Gillespie Magee, Jr. My rider then asked, if I didn’t mind, was it all right if he read it to me. I said I would be honored. And so he read:
Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth.
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of-
Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft throught footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sancitity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
If my memory serves, my rider was 94 years old!”
Jeff Reder (as submitted by Andy Steele)