Originally published in print edition of The Oregonian, SW Weekly, July 2, 2011
Theodore Bennett celebrated his 88th birthday doing what he does twice a day, morning and evening — waving to passers-by outside his West Linn house, wearing his trademark red hat.
Normally, Bennett is outside during the morning and evening commutes, but on June 8 he spent the entire day outside on Carriage Way, with birthday balloons surrounding him.
Students, drivers and neighbors walking dogs all stopped or slowed to wish Bennett a happy birthday. Some dropped off cards and gifts.
“I began six years ago sitting outside my house on the corner to wave to people,” said the former music teacher and church choir director. “I like to talk to people, to ask them about their family and what their favorite foods are. I also like to ask people what church they go to and where they will go when they leave this Earth.”
Suzy Anderson, a West Linn mother of three, has seen Bennett for the past four years.
“I used to go running by his house and he would be out there waving, so I stopped to meet him,” Anderson said. “What I love about Theodore is his dedication to connect with people. I dubbed it his waving ministry.”
She appreciates the simplicity of the gesture.
“He makes that initial connection with people who are so busy, people who forget how important even a wave can be,” Anderson said. “Here Theodore is retired, and he gets out there at 6 in the morning and waves to people on their way to work.