MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ - John S. prides himself on having four library cards. An accomplished author, history buff and fervent reader, he makes good use of all four. And while he does enjoy his frequent trips to the library, he recently discovered the ease of Amazon and cannot get over the speed in which books arrive at his front door. “I ordered it Wednesday and it was here Friday,” he said with disbelief on a recent Wednesday afternoon sitting at his kitchen table at home in Mountainside. Seated across from him was his wife Madge. Beside him was the man he credits with introducing him to Amazon and taking him, at the age of 90, to buy his first laptop computer, SAGE Meals on Wheels volunteer, Robert Lecky. “If it weren’t for Robert, I wouldn’t have this computer or Amazon.”
Robert first met the couple in September 2016 when he began delivering Meals on Wheels to their home. Madge, 83, greeted him at the door with two broken wrists from a recent fall and John limped over with a damaged knee, which he hurt trying to lift Madge after the fall. “I honestly don’t know what we would have done without Robert,” said Madge. While the meals were a big help, it turns out that Meals on Wheels was a gift well beyond a nutritional one. “We hit it off right out of the box,” recalls Robert. Soon after that first meeting, John, a proud native of Northern Ireland, and genealogy enthusiast, began looking into Robert’s heritage and was thrilled to report back that they shared a similar lineage and may indeed be distant relatives going way, way back. “Genealogy is never ending, it’s amazing who you can be related to,” John said laughing.
By March the couple was feeling much better and no longer needed Meals on Wheels, but after seven months of getting to know Robert they were sad to say good-bye. The three decided to keep it going and get together every Wednesday afternoon for lunch and a visit. Sometimes Robert brings a pizza, other times Madge prepares a light meal. Occasionally the three will get together on a Saturday as they did to buy John’s computer or more recently, when Robert took them on a drive to Pennsylvania to pick out Jake, a new puppy. Their former dog, also a Beagle named Jake, had recently died and the thought of being without a dog wasn’t a consideration. “Such a beautiful pet,” John said looking over at Jake as he curled into Madge’s lap for a rare, quiet moment.
Learning the story of John and Madge, including how they met (they dated from separate continents for a bit before John made the move to the U.S.) and what they’ve done (Madge taught elementary school in East Orange for 35 years and John has had a host of careers including field hockey coach at Drew University and publishing two books – he’s working on his third) are wonderful perks of being a volunteer, Robert said. “John has the mind of a 25-year-old and Madge is just as nice as can be.” A former financer, Robert, 68, decided to become a volunteer with Meals on Wheels after he retired from a career on Wall Street. “Volunteering with people who are not your parents is a learning experience. It’s taught me to be much more sensitive to issues of the elderly.” And while he does admire the couple for their independence, he said he does worry about them being alone so he’s given them both his home and cell numbers. “They know they can call me for anything,” he said.
Of the many things Robert likes about being a SAGE volunteer, making a positive impact on someone’s life is at the top of the list. “At the end of the day it makes me feel good to help other people and know I’m making a difference in someone’s life.” John laughed at hearing this, and teased, “Robert keeps coming back to see us because he enjoys the history lessons. He likes the free education he’s getting.”
Established in 1966, SAGE Meals-on-Wheels was one of the first meal delivery programs in New Jersey. Professionally planned and prepared meals are delivered to individuals aged 60 and older who are unable to food shop or cook for themselves, or who may need respite following a hospital stay.