John Waldo is a 'champion'

This active senior has a sense of civic duty and a sense of humor

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— John Waldo was recently recognized by West Milford and Passaic County as one of their “Champions of Disability" at a dinner and awards ceremony in May.

Unfortunately, he was unable to attend the award dinner but did receive his awards. One award, from the State of New Jersey Senate and General Assembly, is a “citation for bringing honor to himself and pride to his family and community as a recipient of the 2014 Passaic County Council on Disabilities award.”

The Board of Chosen Freeholders, The Advisory Council on Disability and the WIB Disability Committee also gave him an award “for providing encouragement and inspiration to individuals with disabilities and special needs.”

Waldo was pleased and admits he’s just “getting older and things don’t work like they used to.” He’s getting deaf and has a BAHA (bone anchored hearing aid) device in his skull to help him hear. Nonetheless, he said he is in better shape than some other seniors he sees at Camp Hope or Hillcrest Community Center. He is a tireless advocate for the elderly and disabled when it comes to making sure West Milford’s officials know about things that are not up to code, or difficult for people with disabilities to deal with.

He’s been a member of the West Milford Americans with Disability Committee for three years and also serves on the recycling committee. He’s president of the Golden Age Senior Club and vice-president of the Senior Advisory Committee in town, so he is cognizant with the needs of the elderly and disabled.

Advocate for the disabled
“I’m getting to be kind of a skootch about disability stuff,” said Waldo. “At least half the people (at the senior center or Camp Hope) have a cane or walker and I look to see if disability conveniences are put in around town.”

He gave an example: the door at Camp Hope is difficult to open.

“You shouldn’t have to pull hard; there should be no more than five pounds of pressure; over that, pressure is not code. I’m learning about ramps and all kinds of stuff. I tell (officials) about Camp Hope — what’s supposed to be up to code and what isn’t. As I go around town, I’m very conscious of things that aren’t up to code. And some things get done. I think I kind of bug other people because I do go on at times.” He said he is pleased to see some changes; more curbs, and sidewalk dips with a textured surface to improve traction.

Unfortunately, he said, many things are up to code on the day they’re built, but are not retrofitted if code is updated, unless renovations are done.

Hob Nobbing with the locals

Waldo has been retired for the last five years. Preceding his retirement, he worked for 11 years for A&P; the last 10 as the seafood manager, first in Boonton and the last five years in Midland Park.

Before that, Waldo was in business for himself for 25 years as the owner of a candy store known as “Hob Nob,” located in the Hewitt section of West Milford. He sold newspapers, magazines, paperback books, cigarettes, candy and lottery tickets. The business opened in Oct. 1969. Due to its great location, next to the A&P and across from Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, and also near a bakery, the store did well.

“You can image how busy we were; especially on Sundays,” Waldo said. “By Labor Day, we were selling 1,600 papers on a Sunday.”

Parrots, cars and feathers

Waldo, who never married, has other interests that keep him busy. He likes to collect 1/18 scale model metal cars.

“I can buy those — I don’t have enough money to buy real ones,” he said.

And he has his birds, which provide him with “conversation all the time.” Waldo owns several parrots; he bought his first one 30 years ago.

“Each one does different stuff,” he said. “One cockatoo loves to whistle and bounces up and down, feet firmly on perch, wings out and feathers fluffed. He also does a 'bomb whistle and crash' noise. He’ll do it twice and the third time I have to do the ‘ka-boom.’ If I miss, he stops and stares at me as if to say, ‘Hello? Did you forget what you were supposed to do?’” Waldo noted, “They usually pick up what they want to pick up. Like some people, they keep repeating the same things over and over.”

If a reporter, who is allergic to feathers, just happened to walk into Waldo's house, what might happen?

He explained, “You’d get two feet in here and you’d pass out."

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