A calendar roughly the length of a pair of skis sits on the counter of Truman Stewart’s kitchen, eagerly awaiting its next notation.
Scrawled on his calendar are planned lunches with friends, birthdays of relatives and days he is set to volunteer with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Idaho’s Talking Book Service for the Blind.
Despite being 92, Stewart is as busy as ever.
Stewart spent 45 years working at Bogus Basin with the ski patrol. The first half of his tenure was spent on-ski. Once he got into his 70s, however, he transitioned into gathering medical supplies for active patrolmen. Stewart, who also served time in the U.S. Air Corps, easily could have retired two decades ago.
But a promise he made with his wife, Clorese, who died in 2010, stuck with him then and now.
Neither of them were simply going to sit around, they promised.
“That was our whole philosophy after we retired,” Stewart said. “I don’t want to go to sit down or just keel over dead in three or four months for lack of something to do.”
Life of service
After serving in the military, Stewart began work at a phone company. He was transferred to Boise to do installation work; it was here that he met Clorese at church. The two began dating and were married 12 days after her 21st birthday, he said.
Stewart was already in his 40s when a friend asked him if he was interested in joining the Bogus Basin ski patrol. The biggest hindrance was the fact that he hadn’t picked up a pair of skis since he was in high school in Montpelier, Idaho.
“I said, ‘I hardly know how to ski,’ ” Stewart said with a chuckle. “I hadn’t been on skis since I was teenager.”
Despite his lack of experience, Stewart made the patrol and transported injured riders up and down the mountain for more than 20 years.
“I’ve known Truman for 20 years,” said Roark Nagler, who worked with Stewart on the ski patrol. “He’s a great man. He’s a great individual who volunteers and is just trying to be a really good citizen.”
Stewart “retired” at age 70, knowing skiing at that age would be a liability. But in the back of his head was a story of a former boss who was forced into retirement due to his age.
“His wife passed away about, I think two or three months after he retired,” Stewart said. “He’d go downtown to local bars. ... He’d come back home and just sit. And within a year after his wife passed away, he passed away.”
Beyond that need to always be busy is an empathy that pushes him toward service. That generosity is part of the reason Stewart volunteers twice a week at Idaho’s Talking Book Service for the Blind.
“Truman is an incredible example of how much someone can accomplish ... when they do stay active and engaged,” Idaho Commission for Libraries Volunteer Services Coordinator Colleen Schowalter said. “And if a great attitude plays a part in longevity, then that’s another secret to Truman’s success.”
“It’s a reflection on his service to society, that volunteer spirit and all,” said Kelley Creamer, now the ski patrol leader at Bogus Basin.
Something about Clorese’s life as a nurse inspired Truman to keep giving back, even if he never stopped to think about it.
“Maybe some of (Clorese’s) empathy for others rubbed off on me,” he said. “I just want to keep busy doing something that is of value to somebody else.”
To pass the time, Stewart continued working with the ski patrol, though in a different capacity. He gathered medical supplies for patrolmen. That meant gathering gauze, bandages and all other remedies that might be needed on the mountain.
Creamer can’t remember ever having to correct Stewart.
“I don’t ever recall us ever being out of rubber gloves or any of those consumables that would be maddening,” Creamer said. “I really appreciate everything that he’s done.”
Still giving back
Stewart never has been one to ask for recognition; the idea of having his photo taken makes him uneasy. But it’s precisely the reason why he’s endeared himself to so many throughout the years.
“He’s really an under-the-radar kind of guy,” Creamer said. “I don’t think I ever remember him being presented him with any kind of award or anything like that. ... The wheel didn’t squeak, so it never got oiled.”
Though he doesn’t move as well as he did in his earlier skiing days, Stewart is determined to make a difference, even if it means sitting behind a desk for a few hours twice a week.
“It may sound overblown, but Truman is an inspiration,” Schowalter said. “Not only can Truman be counted on to always work his shift — regardless of the weather or any aches and pains he may be feeling — but his skill and attention to detail are unparalleled. You can’t help but be inspired and motivated by someone like Truman, who could easily, and deservedly, use their age as an excuse to withdraw from the world or give less than their best.”
Stewart credits his wife. Of course he does.
Before she died, they decided to travel the world. They visited Europe. They traveled to Australia. They even made it all the way to Hong Kong.
After their traveling ended, Clorese continued her commitment to helping others — and the couple’s promise to one another — by volunteering at the senior center. She crocheted and quilted there every week, he said. The two also volunteered every year at the Sun Valley Jazz Festival.
“It’s just a part of the culture that my wife and I developed and retired on, you might say. That’s just the way we lived,” he said. “I just don’t want to sit and shrivel up and die. I want to die ... going on with my life. And so that’s the way I’ve been.”