Ralph Swaney is a patriot.
He was born that way, with a birthday on Flag Day. And this Flag Day, he celebrates his ninth decade.
His family has already celebrated the big 9-0 with a family reunion. It was time he cherished as he got to see his daughters, nieces and nephews, and all the friends and family he loves.
Fortunately for them, the party fell on a day that Ralph Swaney wasn’t working. You see, at 90 years old, he’s proud to be employed full-time at Lowe’s. In the hardware and tools department.
“I’ve worked outside in the lawn and garden. I spent some time in the flooring department. I’m not an expert on everything there, but I can handle anything. They could give me a broom and tell me to sweep the floor and I’d be happy,” Swaney said.
In fact, one might say his 13-year stint at Lowe’s is as close to perfection as anyone could find in a job. He gets to help people.
“I think the important things in life are taking care of your family, and doing for others. If someone needs a hand, I give ‘em a hand,” Swaney said.
“I come from a generation that does that,” he added.
Swaney was born in Waynesfield, and graduated in 1941 from Waynesfield High School. He hoped to attended Moody Bible Institute but was drafted into the service just after starting there. He did his service in the Air Force, serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II from 1941 until the fighting ended.
“I saw guys … I worked with guys in the service who gave up jobs and businesses to work for our country. It was an unselfish group, and they taught me a lot,” he said. “I hope over these last years I’ve passed that philosophy of helping to others. I think I’ve done that to my own family.”
Last June, Swaney was honored to be part of the National Honor Flight Network, which takes veterans to Washington D.C. to visit the war memorials.
“That was a highlight of my life. The places there were so tranquil, and so inspiring. I was amazed. We were up for about 24 hours. They took along a wheelchair to help me, but I walked most of the way. It’s something I’ll never forget,” Swaney said.
But along with the patriotic pride that filled him, Swaney was equally thrilled to be alive and able to walk through most of the long trek on his own steam. You see, he’s been injured in accidents and had open heart surgery.
“Faith is why I’m here today. I’ve been through a lot, but I always know God is with me. I feel good today, so I just thank God for that and recognize that I could be infirm.”
Presently, Swaney really doesn’t have any down-time built into his schedule.
“The last two or three years have been fast-paced. I’ve been to Florida to see my brother, and I’ve been on the Honor Flight,” he noted.
And, he keeps busy in his garden.
“I put out some strawberries and some tomatoes. My grandkids like to work in the garden with me,” he said.
Lots of work for a guy who admittedly dreamed of retiring after a career working in the printing business everywhere from Whited Printing to The Lima News. “I did dream of being retired, and I did retire. But I had always had a job, and a job on the side. Even during my retirement, I sold real estate,” he said, laughing.
Finally a niece suggested the Lowe’s job to satisfy his desire to help people.
“When I got hired there, they told me I could work full-time if I wanted. So, I try and get in 39 hours each week. Then when I get home, I get busy. I’ve still got lots of plans of things I want to do for the grandkids in the garden. Lots of different things. Some of them may never get done,” he said, smiling.
But I’m putting my money on this Flag Day baby. Just like the American spirit, he never quits.