Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 6, 2013

Nonagenarian credits active lifestyle for longevity

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Keep active. Don't sit too long.

That's the secret Norbert Bennett, who turns 95 today, shares about growing older.

And volunteering where there are pretty ladies?

“That's right!” he enthused, as fellow members of the East Texas Medical Center – Jacksonville's auxiliary joined in the laughter.

“He's my favorite Pink Lady,” cracked ultrasound technician Sam Barron. “No offense to the other Pink Ladies.”

Barron was on hand Tuesday for a small birthday celebration for his friend in the hospital's grand lobby.

The two have known each other for a decade, forging a strong friendship over a shared love of music and movies from the 1930s and 1940s.

“He was the first person when I walked in the door of this hospital, and (a friendship struck up) just like that, right off the bat,” Barron recalled, as Bennett added, “we walked in together (that day).”

Bennett and his daughter, Mary Jones, have been members of the hospital auxiliary for approximately 20 years, at his suggestion, she said.

Her dad was born March 6, 1918, in Johnstown, Penn., and in the late 1970s retired as manager of an auto supply store in Bedford, located in the south central part of the state.

Jones, her husband and children moved to Texas in 1976. Bennett had a sister in the Houston area he wanted to live closer to, so the following year, he and his wife Christina followed their daughter south.

When her mother passed away, Bennett moved in with Mary and her family, and in 1993, they came to Cherokee County, to a farm that had been in her husband's family for generation.

“When we moved here from Pasadena, Mary, her husband and I (went to) a farm north of Rusk, and farm life wasn't my perfect choice,” he laughed. “So I said, 'We ought to do something to keep busy,' and we took off (for) Jacksonville. I said 'maybe we can volunteer somewhere,' so we ended up volunteering at Nan Travis (Hospital), which was located right here. They tore it down and built (ETMC) around it.”

Jones nodded. “It was really Daddy's suggestion. He asked, 'How are we going to get to know people?’” she recalled.

Over the years, a strong sense of camaraderie has developed among father, daughter and the individuals affiliated with ETMC.

“These folks are family – I can't tell you how wonderful this group of people are, from the administrators on down,” she said. “Everybody is wonderful here, and Daddy just loves these people – he just thinks the world of them.”

Bennett, who has been an active volunteer there, save for the year year he was recovering from heart problems, is one of two men who are part of the ETMC auxiliary, and he couldn't be happier to be part of organization.

He heartily encouraged others to consider volunteering in a position where they feel most comfortable.

“It's wonderful to get out and see so many people – you meet a variety of people,” he said.