Senior profile - Grover and Carol Durham

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A change of pace

By Lupita Gonzales

For the Optic


Since moving to Las Vegas, on a “toss of the coin” decision in August of 2001, Grover and Carol Durham have settled into their comfortable, refurbished home.

Originally, the structure had been one of the officers’ mess halls, built for troops stationed at Camp Luna during WWII, but one would never have guessed it by the looks of it now.

He has purchased a large-capacity water tank, and in order to keep his trees alive, he often joins the procession of pickup trucks making their way to buy water at the effluent plant in town.

The Durhams relocated from their long-time home in Florida, where they met and subsequently married in the mid-1960s.

After their arrival here, they quickly immersed themselves in volunteer efforts, serving on community committees, helping and directing lunch programs for the needy, and — especially — helping with the Carnegie Library groups.

Grover, born in 1937 in Topeka, Kans., to Joseph Edgar and Welthalee Grover Durham, was raised in Denver when his parents moved there. He has two younger sisters, Joan, now living in Estes Park, Colo., and Nancy, in Leawood, Kans.

After high school, Grover attended the University of Colorado, earning his B.S. degree in civil engineering and business administration in 1962. He subsequently left to work in Wyoming with a government water research agency. After about a year and a half there Grover vacationed with his parents in Lakeland, Fla., and that’s where he met Carol.

Carol Campbell was born in Fort Benning, Ga., but had gone to work as a summer trainee at the engineering/construction firm where Grover had taken a job. They married in August of 1963, and Carol subsequently pursued bachelor of science studies and went on to receive her master’s degree in 1965 from the University of South Florida.

50th anniversary in August
The family grew, as their sons, Grover Hugh (goes by Hugh), and Joseph Edgar (goes by Edgar) joined the family. Hugh, now 44, lives in Maui, Hawaii, and Edgar, 37, lives in Mobile, Ala. Both sons will be coming to visit Grover and Carol in September. In addition, the Durhams will be celebrating their 50th year as a couple in August.

From 1975 to 2000, Grover worked in Lakeland, Fla, running a construction/maintenance division for electrical generating companies. Carol became a mathematics professor at Florida Southern College, also in Lakeland. Both Durhams retired in 2000.

Then, it was decision time for the couple. Grover, having lived in Denver in his youth, craved what he calls “the four seasons existence.” He said he felt that he “needed to get away from the various pressures in Florida.” The couple traveled to the Southwest, sampled Colorado and New Mexico, and decided on Las Vegas. Grover admitted, “We didn’t know anyone here. We were directed by the real estate people.” Thus, in 2001, the Durhams had arrived.

It didn’t take long for these two industrious individuals to find their niches in Las Vegas. They immediately became contributing members of the community.

Praise for Henry Sanchez
Grover met then-Mayor Henry Sanchez, whom he describes as “one of the finest gentleman I have met here,” and Sanchez soon appointed Grover to serve on the Carnegie Library committee, several years as chairman. Durham chaired the Board of Directors for Carnegie Library a number of years. He currently serves on the City Housing Committee, and Carol is active with the Friends of the Library, a volunteer group supporting literacy, especially children’s programs. She has served as president and currently is treasurer of the group.

Both Durhams have become involved with the Methodist Church-sponsored Soup Kitchen. Carol is its coordinator, while Grover calls himself their “go-fer,” busying himself by running errands, picking up donations and commodities, and meeting at the local Senior Center and with Food Depot, which provides charitable services or saleables.

He runs seven or eight errands per week, he said, delivering donated food to the soup kitchen. Various local groups donate unused commodities to the effort, from churches to private citizens. Grover pointed out that the soup kitchen also provides food bags to individuals who cannot afford to buy their food. These people must register at the soup kitchen, according to government requirements.

Grover said patrons of the service may donate to the food jar — the food costs about 50 cents —and there appears to be a significant number of individuals who really need the services.

During the school year, Grover said, “the patrons are generally adults, but during the summer, besides the regular trend, there are some children who attend.”

Carol’s contributions to volunteer efforts were recognized with a 2008 Governor’s Outstanding New Mexico Woman Award. Only a few years ago, she was named an inductee into the New Mexico Women’s Hall of Fame. And she continues in her efforts to provide volunteer services.

Shuttling food for weekly meals in the basement of the Methodist Church consumes only part of Grover’s time. He’s become a fixture at the Abe Montoya Recreation Center, where, in his terms, “I relax.”

Down from 225 pounds
And part of that “relaxation” comes from plying his physical efforts for staying fit. Grover follows a strict regimen of working out — “two hours daily, five days a week.” He credits Karen Topping-Billingsley, a fitness expert and former director of the Senior Circle, for having shown him how to use the equipment, back in 2002-04. “I do it for two reasons,” he said. “First, I want to keep my internal body in good shape without taking prescription drugs, and second, I want to develop my range of motion.”

He added, “I never worked out until I came here. I was 225 pounds when I got here and I’m at 150, now. My objective is not weight loss per se, but rather, health.”

Grover has noticed that most of the individuals who frequent the rec center are younger than he is.

“I’d like to see more seniors taking advantage of the programs available: Fitness Challenge, Senior Olympics, etc.,” he said. “Yes, they must have a doctor’s approval on file.”

He noted that the rec center provides fitness professionals: lifeguards and weight men as “overseers” and exercise technicians to provide support and direction to patrons of the center.

Those who rise early enough are likely to see this 76-year-old man performing exercises to condition his abs; then he moves to other machines in the weight room, pumping weights to strengthen his arms; he moves to one of the treadmills, then to other equipment.

Grover said he doesn’t preach fitness to others, but his dedication to his fitness regimen is example enough.