Many 71-year-olds live a quiet, retired life but longtime Chehalis resident James Armfield isn’t like most people his age. With no plans to retire any time soon, Jimmy (as he’s affectionately called) lives his life with the enthusiasm of a teenager. “I will retire when I’m 80,” he says. “Work keeps me going.”
Jimmy performs various woodworking tasks at Lewis County Work Opportunities, which gives him a sense of responsibility. “He bundles shims, which is rather difficult, and he does it without any problems,” says Program Coordinator, Aven Martin. “He also teaches other people and shows them how to do it exactly correctly, which is so wonderful.”
Jimmy also runs the gang and panel saws and finishes some of the furniture they build. “I like my job,” he says. “It’s fun!”
Outside of work, Jimmy fills his free time with endeavors people his age don’t often pursue. Through Special Olympics, he participates in basketball, track and softball. “It’s fun to do sports,” he says.
He enjoys winning medals with his teammates and his favorite sport is softball. “When we play on really nice grass, I like it a lot,” he says.
Jimmy also bowls at Fairway Lanes every week with his friends.
He also enjoys spectating. “I like watching football,” he says. His favorite team is the Seahawks. He also enjoys going to local high school football games.
When the septuagenarian isn’t at work or practicing for a big game, he is often walking around town visiting his favorite stores and chatting with the shopkeepers. “I like to go out and walk around,” he says. “Living in Chehalis is good. I know my way around.”
He especially loves buying CDs. A music lover, Jimmy spends hours flipping through the selections looking for something not already in his extensive music collection. His favorite singer is George Strait. Jimmy owns all the country star’s music.
Beyond listening to music, Jimmy loves to sing. He’s in his church choir and loves to sing karaoke at Flood Valley Brewing. “It’s only on Sundays,” he says. “So, on Fridays, I go to the Chehalis Eagles for karaoke. I’ve always like to sing.”
Remarkably, though people sometimes find Jimmy’s speaking voice difficult to understand, his singing voice is crystal clear and easily understood.
How does Jimmy do it all, given his challenges? With a little help from community members and the consistent service of Twin Transit. The city bus helps him get to work and to all of his recreation opportunities.
“Most people with disabilities wouldn’t be able to be employed without the bus,” says Aven. “They don’t all have family members who can take them to and from work. It allows them to work and go to activities.”
Aven not only knows Jimmy can count on the bus to get him where he needs to go but that the drivers are looking out for him. “They know him by name and are good with all our folks with disabilities,” she says. “If anything happens out of the ordinary, we get a phone call. If anyone is being ugly to them or cursing, the bus driver puts that person off the bus and doesn’t allow that to happen. They pay attention to who is around them on the bus and keep them safe. Most communities don’t have that.”
It’s something that Jimmy appreciates too. “The bus drivers take care of me,” he says. “They help me when I need help. Everybody helps me out.” In addition to the bus drivers looking out for Jimmy, the community steps in to help him when needed. “If he wants to go somewhere after work in the evenings, he usually rides the bus there,” says Aven. “If it’s after hours when he comes home, so many people in the community know him and will bring him home.”
Jimmy’s most inspirational element is his unwavering resilience and independence. “His ability to be independent is very meaningful to him,” Aven says. “I believe it’s encouraged other people to say, ‘Wow, if Jimmy can be that independent, then I can too!’”
That independence is born out of Jimmy’s fierce spirit. It’s made possible by our wonderful community and the accessibility of public transit. “People, especially with a disability, are sometimes nervous to ride the bus but they see Jimmy ride all the time and it’s encouraged them to try it,” says Aven. “Then, they find riding the bus is not as hard as they think it is. That really is his independence. If they take that opportunity like Jimmy has, it opens up a whole new world. If they are more independent, it opens more possibilities for them.”
With no plans to slow down for at least another decade, Jimmy is an example of astonishing enthusiasm. “Jimmy leads his life with a little help from other people, but he is a really independent and determined person,” says Aven. “He is an amazing guy.”