Please read on to hear some stories from our Little Brothers
By Erin Alberty
Daily Mining Gazette
Saturday/Sunday, March 13/14, 2004
Lake Linden -- Donald High studied engineering at Rutgers University, worked in the drafting office of the New York Shipbuilding Corp. in Manhattan and designed his own 11-bedroom home. He can explain the auditory physics of a hearing aid, the physiology of macular degeneration and the chemistry of water purification.
If he could just change the ribbon in his typewriter."I know what to do. I just can't see to do it," the 91-year-old Lake Linden resident says.
But Bill Caputi is there on his weekly visit. High tells him where to put the small parts of the Smith Corona.
In times like these, High says it's good to have a little brother."I don't remember how I got in contact with Little Brothers -- Friends of the Elderly, but (Caputi) is the greatest," he says. "I don't want to live completely alone, like a hermit or a monk."
Now in its 22nd year, Little Brothers' signature Visiting Volunteer program sends 61 volunteers and several staffers to visit 140 elderly "friends" in the Copper Country at least twice a month."It is our most challenging program of all of them," said Mike Aten, executive director or the Copper Country Little Brothers. "It's hard to get people to do that commitment."
But for Caputi, commitment is no problem."It adds so much to the richness of my life," the 31-year-old volunteer says. "It's great to have a regular thing like that to look forward to." Caputi goes to High's house each Thursday for dinner. They each chip in a dish -- Caputi brings dessert and High prepares meatloaf. High recites the recipe, down to the teaspoon and ounce. "I can't hear, I can't see, and it's difficult to walk. But my memory is still sharp," High says."Sharper than mine ever was," Caputi agrees.
The two have become good friends since Caputi started visiting two years ago. Along with their love of food --"we're both connoisseurs," High says -- the two men share a background in New York state and a love of family history."Don says we're both damn Yankees," Caputi says."Yep, we're Yankees," High chimes in, and rolls right into a story about his earliest American ancestors, who married in 1650 in Waterbury, Conn.
Caputi plans to ask his grandfather to look into local records for any other information."You better ask before he dies," High reminds him, although he isn't worried about the same fate."I'm a young 91...and I want to live to be 120," he says.
Aten said Little Brothers will stick with High until then, if that's what High wants."Our friends will be with us for life," Aten said.If a volunteer relationship ends prematurely, Little Brothers staff steps in to continue the twice-monthly visits.
Visiting volunteerism has expanded through all of Keweenaw and Houghton counties since the program began in 1982. Little Brothers will send visitors to anyone age 60 or older who has limited contact with friends and family, and lives alone.
For High, who has not left his rural home since December, the company is a treat."That's the best day of the week," he says. "That's when I eat the most food in one meal."For dessert, Caputi gets out cake and ice cream, served with silver spoons with the letter "h" engraved on the handle. They are dated 1397 on the back, and carry a story Caputi says is one of many High loves to tell.
"When I got married, my mother told me, 'Don't ever, ever forget your anniversary date. Men always forget,'" High says. "So I went to a jeweler and ordered our silverware -- forks, spoons, soup spoons, knives, oyster forks, salad forks, everything you could need for a party of eight -- and asked them to send one piece to my wife every month, on the date of our wedding. It took about 10 years, but she got the whole set. and I never forgot the date."He won't forget the next important date on his schedule either. Caputi plans to bring his girlfriend and her daughter to visit the next day.
"You're going to get sick of me soon," he tells High."I could never get sick of you," High objects. "You're the greatest."
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