If you’re an early riser and heading into Lansing to work, you may have seen George Doxtader downtown and wondered who he is and why he is sitting on a bench on Main Street at 4:30 a.m., waving and smiling at cars as they pass. Some even worry he is homeless. But he’s not. I recently sat down to talk with George, and he shared his life story with me.
Doxtader has a small home not far from downtown. His daily routine involves getting up early and heading downtown. He goes to bed early, he said, sometimes about 6 p.m., sleeps until midnight or so and then gets up to watch TV or knit. Then he heads downtown to start his busy day — a true believer that the early bird gets the worm.
Doxtader is 72 years old, was born in Mason, grew up in Onondaga and went to school in Springport. George has had three wives. With his first wife, Sheila, he has five children, three girls and two boys. He now has 33 grandkids and three great-grandkids. He is currently not involved with anyone romantically, but is always looking, he said.
George got his first job when he was 16, making pallets in a sawmill. He later worked at Diamond Reo in Lansing. His favorite job, though, was being a carpenter. He really enjoys working outside and making things, he said. He built houses, garages and more, eventually becoming “the boss.”
Many locals remember seeing George when he worked at the car wash in Eaton Rapids. Not one to just sit and relax, you might still find George helping out at Automated Precision Equipment in Eaton Rapids, which is owned by his friend Kurt Norgaard.
George’s whole world changed in 1989, though, when he suffered two massive strokes at age 41. He spent six weeks in the hospital recovering from the tremendous impact the strokes had on his body. He left the hospital unable to read or write and could barely speak. He had partial paralysis and difficulty walking. To this day, he is limited in the use of his right arm.
But, being a strong and determined man, George has come long way since that devastating experience. Friends at the Jean Bradford Kline Senior Center in Eaton Rapids helped him — working with him on his speech, his reading and his health. He has re-mastered reading and is able to walk. He can talk, although there is still some difficulty there at times.
George does ‘drive,’ riding his motorized bike, and he participates in most of the normal daily activities of a 72-year-old man. George is very active at the senior center. He holds records in Wii bowling, knits, plays cards daily, plays penny bingo and cribbage, enjoys the music and the meals and even dances.
The stroke might have slowed him down a bit, but he has not let it stop him.
Five days a week George has breakfast at Darb’s with his friends. He often then heads to the senior center for morning exercise with Jill Skinner. He often spends most of the day there, enjoying the activities and lunch.
He is becoming quite well known for his one-handed knitting, taught to him by Linda Griffith at the senior center. He uses a plastic ‘knitting’ loom and a crochet needle. He has become a prolific and skilled knitter, making blankets, hats, scarves and other accessories.
Senior center director Rita Honeysett said his resilience is extremely impressive.
“He has an unshakable optimism,” Honeysett said. “We all look forward to seeing him ride up on his bike, and he is currently making knitted-blanket number 12.”
Deb Malewski is a long-time resident of Eaton Rapids and regular contributor to this newspaper. She can be reached at email@example.com.