At 86, Hugh Walsh is an inspiration to other residents at Richfield Living in Salem: he exercises regularly, enjoys dancing with the ladies – and even does his own ironing to keep sharp creases in his pants.
Walsh is a “Calendar Guy” in the 2018 state calendar, “Faces & Stories,” sponsored by the Virginia Health Care Association. It’s appropriate that he’s Mr. June. His birthday is June 28.
He was honored with a surprise reception on Feb. 9 at The Oaks, the assisted living residence where he has an apartment at Richfield.
The Oaks Life Enrichment Coordinator Debbie Tingler nominated Walsh for his perseverance, in particular. He has had many interesting experiences in his years “which have cultivated perseverance and paved the way for his ultimate spirit and confident spirit,” she wrote in her nomination letter.
One of the aspects that make his life so extraordinary is how he worked a number of “hands-on jobs” starting at age 9, rather than buckling down in school, because academic work was hard for him. It wasn’t until he was a sophomore at Virginia Tech that testing discovered he had a lifelong reading disability that Walsh worked to overcome.
The Portsmouth native got to college on the GI Bill, after joining the Marine Corps at age 18 during the Korean War, attained the rank of sergeant, was chosen squad leader and ultimately was selected as an admiral’s orderly.
Walsh graduated with honors from VT’s School of Architecture, worked with DuPont in Wilmington, DE, and then moved on to Hercules as an architectural engineer for 36 years.
At the party in his honor in the Alleghany Room at Richfield, Walsh’s daughter, Anne and husband Keith were waiting for him, as well as his younger brother, Tim and wife Kay from the Raleigh, N.C., area.
“I am a bit surprised,” Hugh Walsh said when asked his reaction to the party.
His family had done well to keep everything under wraps. “Hugh called me yesterday, and it was all I could do to keep my mouth shut because I knew Tim and Kay were coming,” Anne said.
Hugh Walsh’s other children are Rob Gaither of Charlotte and John Gaither of Orlando, Fla.
Also at the gathering were 30 Richfield residents and a number of staff.
Those included Wellness Center Manager Rob Smith, who has guided Walsh since he moved to Richfield in 2015, through physical therapy and strength training since he moved to Richfield in 2015. Walsh said working with Smith has built his upper body strength and balance to help him keep from falling.
Walsh’s background in architectural and structural engineering has made him a source for future enhancement of the Richfield campus. He also has served on dietary planning teams and has been chosen by the marketing team as a face of Richfield on brochures and advertisements.
The party featured Hugh Walsh’s favorite coconut cake. “How did you know it was my favorite?” he asked. Tingler explained they had asked around and his family told the staff. The actual cake served was “Pig Picking Cake” with pineapple and pudding in it.
Walsh was one of two Richfield residents selected for the Faces & Stories calendar. The other was Cornelia Grant, 98, “Miss January,” who was a resident of the Recovery & Care Center. “Connie” Grant was nominated in November before she passed away in December.
She was famous in the Roanoke Valley in her younger days for being “Sweetie Pie” on the WSLS children’s television show, “Cactus Joe and Sweetie Pie.” It aired on Channel 10 for ten years in the 1960s. Connie Grant was also known as an excellent ballroom dancer who was light on her feet.