Frederick Douglass III: Not acting his age by Gary DeSantis The Meadville Tribune
Recently, the Tribune published an article concerning Frederick Douglass IV. Douglass travels throughout the country presenting the thoughts and writings of Frederick Douglass I. Apparently, he does these presentations in the garb of a 19th century person and the programs are doubtless very interesting and informative. What has piqued my interest, however, is Frederick Douglass III. You see, Mr. Douglass is now an amazing 97 years old/young. He lives by himself and tends to his personal needs with little help. He is able to drive and, as far as I can determine, he sees pretty well and hears nearly as well as I do. He still works. What is the most remarkable thing is that Mr. Douglass still at 97, has all of his marbles. As with most aged people, he can retell a story that happened 50 years ago, but he has a fantastic short-term memory as well. More important, he is engaged in what is happening in his neighborhood, community, country and the world. In "with it." Through the years we have discussed a variety of issues. His recounting of what it was like to be an Africa-American in Meadville in the 1930's, '40s, '50s, and beyond were eye opening to say the last. He also has\a wealth of knowledge concerning Meadville's history, but is very willing to discuss Meadville's present. He decries the sagging of his neighborhood, but will not move to make his life easier. We have spoken about religion and politics and at 97, Mr. Douglass has definite opinions in both areas. He shared how he would go to his church on Sundays, but would not go into the building. Rather, he would work outside on the landscaping and bushes and clean the outside, an interesting and useful ministry to be sure. On his most recent visit to our store, Mr. Douglass recalled a story that typifies him. He mows his lawn with a non-motorized reel type lawn mower. While mowing his lawn, he slipped in a hole and fell. After a few seconds, he found he was OK but noticed a younger woman approaching him to offer assistance. I asked if he got up and told the woman that everything was all right. Mr. Douglass looked at me as though I was crazy. "I stayed on the ground until I het her help me up!" Long life is a curious blend of good fortune and good genetics. To get the genetic components of long life and mental acuity in perspective, consider this: The qualities appear in the general population about as often as the appearance of a sports superstar. To have your brains and be aged far longer than the national average is like being Joe DiMaggio.Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods. These genetic components don't pop up very often. If this is so Frederick Douglass III is the Michael Jordan of the living. It is a unique pleasure to know him.