On Monday, you met Charlie Hargrove, the long-time assistant city manager who thumbed his nose at polio 67 years ago and has enjoyed a lifetime of success — most of it in our town.
Our final words on Monday were to introduce you to his wife, Marilyn. Now, the rest of the story.
Charlie had been married twice. The first ended in divorce, the second in a battle with cancer. Marilyn, a 1961 Ash Grove High School graduate, had come to the University of Missouri to seek a degree in agriculture, but soon changed to the health world, earning a degree in physical therapy in 1965.
She met and married Mike Sanford in 1964, actually served as Ol’ Clark’s secretary for several months in the Columbia Parks and Recreation office, then spent 30 years as a physical therapist at MU, where she was department chair in the School of Health Professions. She added a doctorate in 1987, and still works on occasion at MU in her role as a physical therapist.
Marilyn and Mike were married for 34 years before cancer claimed Mike in 1998. Mike had spent his entire career in the Columbia and Boone County Health Departments, starting as an inspector for Columbia Health Department director, Jerry Lemonds, then succeeding Jerry when he moved on to head up the health department in Lincoln, Neb.
The current Columbia/Boone County Health Department facility is named for Mike. Mike’s radio handle was “Mr. Clean.” He became a local legend.
Marilyn and Charlie had met socially through the years. Both had lost their spouses, both loved to travel, and both were alone. Marilyn’s son, Matt, became the matchmaker and brought them together in 2003. Travel was the catalyst. Judge Frank Conley officiated the marriage.
“Mike didn’t care much for travel,” Marilyn said recently over lunch, “but he did shake hands with Queen Elizabeth in London.”
Charlie had owned a motor home for years and marriage meant road time. The couple has motored to 47 of the 50 states, from the Atlantic to the Pacific in Canada and to Guadalajara and Mazatlan in Mexico — more than 150,000 miles since 2003.
In 2016, the couple sold their motor home and now drive a 2006 Honda CRV and fly on occasion. Post-polio has slowed Charlie and makes a wheelchair part of travel these days.
Mike and Marilyn had purchased 3.8 acres on Mexico Gravel Road, just east of Route B in 1976 and named it Hill Haven. The hilltop home is surrounded by more mowing than the Hargroves care to do these days, so they recently made the decision to move to Lenoir Retirement Center in late summer.
Recently, an invitation came to join in what was called “Life — Phase III, Chapter 2 — the Move.” It read: “As the saga continues, we find our heroes, Marilyn and Charlie, as they prepare to sell their beloved ‘Hill Haven’ and embark on a new life at ‘Edgewood’.”
The invitation was sent to: “The Flatulatus Antiquartus (also known as the old farts).”
No doubt much of what follows was stolen from some online source, but Charlie wrote in part: “That the evening was devoted to three subjects — problems of growing old, good things about growing old and a series of discussions about everything hurting and what doesn’t hurt doesn’t work; the only thing we do with greater frequency today is urinate and attend funerals; and we now are required to read about Hank Waters’ prostate.”
The long list ended with: “You know the answers, but no one asks the right questions — and when you fall down, you wonder what you can do while you’re down there.”
A few good things were noted, like “the things you buy now won’t wear out while you’re still alive. And you know you’re old when getting lucky means you found your car in the parking lot.”
Charlie Hargrove has come a long way since that devastating summer in Malvern, Ark., between second and third grades when polio interrupted his youth, devastated his lower limbs, but made his resolve stronger than steel — and ignited a spirit that burns bright in him today.
Hats off to Marilyn and Charlie. May their travels in life be a guide to others.
Bill Clark’s columns appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Reach him at 474-4510.