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Walk This Way: Volunteer Sets Great Example

Texas Health Southwest Fort Worth volunteer Al Wexler

His entire life, Al Wexler has been going the extra mile.

For example, back in the 1940s, Wexler was a young man working as the manager of a grocery store on Chicago's west side. At night, he was taking college courses, including classes at Northwestern University. Wexler originally studied accounting, but then switched to engineering. In those days, he walked both to his work and to some of his classes.

Then, to land his first engineering job, Wexler came all the way to Fort Worth. As he recalls, headhunters from Lockheed (then known as Consolidated) approached him about a job opportunity. The lifelong Chicagoan admits he knew virtually nothing about Fort Worth.

"I had an aunt who lived in Houston," Wexler recalled, "and I asked the guys if I could live with her and commute to work. They just laughed."

Although his Houston plan wasn't viable, Wexler took the deal anyway. He moved to Texas and began working as a draftsman on the famous B-36 "Peacemaker." In the evenings, he completed his education, taking classes from TCU, The University of Texas and Texas A&M. True to form, he went the extra mile in his job, too: Wexler stayed with the company until 1996, retiring after 51 years.

For many people, that would be about the end of the story. But for Wexler, it was just the start of another chapter.

After retiring, he began looking for volunteer opportunities. He volunteered at schools, museums and the zoo. Along the way, each choice was influenced by the same factor: proximity. Wexler and his wife Sylvia loved to walk, and he wanted to volunteer some place he could get to by foot.

So Wexler has been walking to his volunteer jobs - for the last 18 years.

Wexler has been at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Southwest Fort Worth for 10 years. Except for taking a few months off when his wife passed away and when he was ill, Wexler's 18-year streak of volunteer service has been uninterrupted, even though he is now legally blind.

He's also still traveling on foot. Twice a week, Wexler makes the one-hour trek from the retirement community where he lives to the hospital, and then when he is done, walks another hour to get back home. He is one of Texas Health's more than 1,500 volunteers who are making a difference everyday to help the organization live its mission of improving the health of the people in the communities we serve.

Wexler happily admits his work isn't entirely altruistic. "Very simply, volunteering gives me something to do and some place to go," he said. "I like having some place to walk to."

He's been a welcome addition to the volunteer team at Texas Health Southwest. Cyndi Martin, the hospital's gift shop manager and volunteer coordinator, describes Wexler as a remarkable man. "He is always here to help, and do anything that anyone asked," she said, "and I've never heard him say anything negative."

Martin also is impressed with Wexler's reliability: For example, the Thursday after Christmas, even with temperatures hovering around 40, Wexler walked to the hospital, alone. He's also not deterred by the burning Texas summers.

"He's more dependable than the postal carrier!" Martin said.

On the days when he is not volunteering, Wexler is still hoofing it, going for walks around the grounds of the complex. But Texas Health Southwest remains a favorite destination.

"The hospital is a great place to volunteer," he said.

For more tips on small changes you can make, visit TexasHealth.org/Well-Being.

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