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There are volunteers who just won't give up

(ran LT NT CT)

His bright eyes twinkle... Hs voice is strong and clear... He sits erect on the bench with one hand on the walker beside himTime has marched on, and he is biding his time.

Lou Trimarco is surrounded by awards, honors and attention that have come from his volunteer work since 1975 when he retired from Aetna Insurance Co. in Chicago at age 65.

Trimarco moved to Florida in 1978. After being a patient at Edward White Hospital in 1978, he joined its volunteer force, which he helped to develop and grow.

In 1981 he was the first to receive the Dr. Frist Humanitarian Award for his tireless efforts to be available, both in his work (volunteer) capacity and as an advocate for patients, volunteers and employees alike.

"He has endeared himself to all our hearts," a staff member said.

There were no "hours" for Trimarco. He seemed to be there all the time. "The hospital and the people were my home and family," Trimarco said.

About a year ago, Trimarco had to retire from his work at the hospital because he was unable to push the patients to their medical assignments because of a circulation problem that made him dizzy. This affected his own mobility.

Did he give up? No, he moved his venue to the Bon Secour Maria Manor.

There he visits people who very seldom have visitors. He spends time with them and takes them for walks, to entertainment, dinner and church.

"On Sunday there is one fellow that I push his wheelchair to chapel, to dinner and then outside where he feeds the birds," Trimarco said. "He (the patient) carries my walker on his lap while I push his chair. I bring him a loaf of bread to break up and feed to the birds. We enjoy this time sitting together."

Trimarco said that, during the week, he goes to Gateway Mall almost every afternoon for two or three hours and visits with "the boys." They are a group of five or six guys, all about Lou's age, most widowed, who gather on the bench around the green space planter at the south end of the mall.

They talk about the weather, sports, current events, politics and what's on TV. They become concerned when one of their group is missing.

Trimarco has lived alone since his wife died in 1958 at the age of 49. He lives in a mobile home, where he has everything conveniently placed.

"I get around pretty good," he said. "Everything is handy, and I can hold on to something near. I do my own housework, but, then, I don't get anything dirty. When I put things away, I know where to find them."

Trimarco's son, an only child, died in 1990. His daughter-in-law and two granddaughters, who live in Tampa, visit when they can. They talk on the phone on holidays.

Trimarco said he relives his precious memories of time as an active volunteer at the Edward White Hospital, where his "family" is. As the recognition award stated, "He stands out as a man among men."

Betty Hayward is the director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program in Pinellas County. You can write her c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731.


Retired Senior Volunteer Program: 327-8690

Volunteer Action Center: 893-1140