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'More fun than work': 83-year-old Meals on Wheels driver preps for retirement

For Jim Geegan, delivering meals has been a rewarding experience.

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Jim Geegan, a driver with Senior Connections Meals on Wheels, smiles at the end of his route on Friday, Sept. 16. After nearly 19 years of delivering meals, the 83-year-old will retire at the end of the month.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Before swinging out of the driver’s seat, Jim Geegan double checks to make sure he’s got a few pieces of candy and a dog treat ready.

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Senior Connections Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan, left, talks with Mary Mishler of Superior while delivering her meal on Friday, Sept. 16.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

He adds a tray of warm food and a paper bag of cold items to his arms, rain pattering on his hood. Then it’s a trip to the door of a home, where a big, brown dog named Nicky waits expectantly. After a knock on the door, the dog’s owner reaches out for the meal, passing back an empty tray. Nicky crunches the treat.

“Nasty day today,” the woman says.

“Not really my kind of weather,” Geegan says.

“Have a nice weekend,” she says. “See you Monday.”

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A similar scene played out at 26 different doorways Sept. 16 as Geegan delivered meals in downtown Superior, many of them in the Golden Apartments along Banks Avenue. He offered an early birthday greeting to a 91-year old and called ahead to one woman so she could walk out to get her meal; another tray was handed to a man sitting on his porch. Geegan dipped into his stash of candy and dog treats of various sizes, sharing with the people he's come to know.

Geegan navigated around puddles as rain pelted down. A Meals on Wheels driver for Senior Connections, he’s delivered meals in worse weather.

“I deliver in wintertime climbing over snowbanks. Sometimes you get some really big snowbanks,” said Geegan, 83.

More fun than work

After retiring from the Duluth News Tribune mailroom, Geegan spent three summers working on a charter fishing boat before becoming a Senior Connections driver. That was nearly 19 years ago. He’ll drive his last route Friday, Sept. 30.

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Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan, left, and Terry Frazier grab meals out of a cart fashioned from a wheelchair at Golden Apartments in Superior on Friday, Sept. 16. Frazier helps Geegan at the apartment building and carries keys in case they're needed to drop off meals for residents.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

“He’s really a fantastic person. You couldn’t ask for a better Meals on Wheels guy,” said Kathy Dieter, who got a saltwater taffy with her meal. “He’s friendly. He opens up my container for soup and he just does nice things … I’m going to miss him when he goes.”

“We won’t get a better one than him,” said Pat Marshall, who lives in the Golden Apartments.

Geegan knocked on her door Sept. 16, even though she hadn’t ordered the meal of barbecue chicken, au gratin potatoes and mixed vegetables. Marshall doesn’t get the chicken meals; she had roast beef cooking. Geegan checked the list, then he and Marshall shared a chuckle. She sent him off with a jug of individually wrapped licorice sticks for his candy stash.

“It’s been a lot more fun than work,” the driver said of his 18-plus years with Senior Connections.

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Asked what he planned to do for retirement, Geegan was stumped.

“That I really don’t know. I’ll have to figure that out,” he said.

Geegan plans to visit his son in Colorado and travel to North Carolina with his daughter.

“They both retired before I did,” the 83-year-old said.

He’ll also have more time to spend with his wife of 63 years, Fern.

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Drivers for the Meals on Wheels program, left to right, Bill Buelteman, Jim Geegan, Don Johnson and Paul Goesling, grab bags of hot meals to place in their vans on Friday, Sept. 16, outside the Yellowjacket Union on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Fellow drivers for Senior Connections said they’ve learned a lot from Geegan.

“He’s the ace,” said Paul Goesling. “You don’t get any better than him.”

Manager Mary Hall, who has been working for the Senior Connections Meals on Wheels program for 23 years, said it will be hard to say goodbye. Geegan comes in at 7 a.m. five days a week to help Hall set up, then takes a walk around the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus before loading meals into vans and delivering them. He sticks around to help wash dishes after that. They’ve shared plenty of jokes and plenty of coffee.

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“You can’t beat this guy,” Hall said, but Geegan is 83. “He needs to get out and do something.”

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Jim Geegan smiles from the drivers seat of his Meals on Wheels van on Friday, Sept. 16.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Driving for Senior Connections is a way to help local seniors retain their independence. It’s more than a meal, Geegan said, it’s a daily welfare check.

The personal contact is critical, said driver Don Johnson.

“The meal is the least important part of it,” he said.

For Geegan, who lived in Superior until moving to Hermantown three years ago, delivering meals has been a rewarding experience.

“I just love it. It’s a good job. It’s not even a job; it’s my hobby,” he said. “If you like what you’re doing, it’s not work.”

More about Meals on Wheels

Senior Connections has been serving Meals on Wheels to homebound seniors age 60 and older in Douglas County since 1984. The program serves almost 70,000 meals a year, according to Senior Connections Executive Director Dale Johnson, and is partially funded through the federal Older Americans Act.

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Mary Hall with the Meals on Wheels program, left, and Susan Mossberger, the senior meals cook with Chartwells, dish up meals of barbecue chicken, au grautin potatoes and California blend vegetables on Friday, Sept. 16.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Drivers deliver meals along seven routes — one rural, six in the city. The city routes run from 10 a.m. to noon five days a week. Rural driver Ted Pellman delivers meals Tuesday through Friday, putting on roughly 160 miles round trip daily.

Hall said they serve roughly 250 meals a day, including congregate meals at six different sites in Douglas County. Drivers receive an hourly wage and use vehicles provided by Senior Connections. Part-time substitute drivers are always needed, Hall said.

Those who receive meals are asked to contribute a donation of $4 per meal. No one age 60 and older will be denied because of their inability to pay. Members of the public can also contribute money to the program to cover the cost of meals.

To sign up for meals, call 715-394-3611 or 800-870-2181 or email nutritiondirector@seniorconnectionswi.org . Visit the Senior Connections website under the meals tab for more information and a meal menu .

The Campus Cafe offers another meal option. The program, which was shuttered during the pandemic, reopened Sept. 12. The Campus Cafe provides dinner from 4:30-6 p.m. Monday through Friday at the UWS Yellowjacket Union dining facility.

Participants can sit down and share a meal, which includes a choice of two to three entrees, vegetables, a sandwich bar, salad bar, desserts, ice cream and beverages. The suggested donation cost is $8 for seniors age 60 and older and $12 for those under age 60. No reservation is required. The menu is posted online at https://dineoncampus.com/uw s. Call 715-394-3611 for more information.

MORE COVERAGE OF SUPERIOR:
Read the latest news in the Dispatches from Douglas County newsletter published every Friday.

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Senior Connections Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan, left, hands a meal to Leroy Peterson in the Golden Apartments on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022. The meal handoff was a two-person job. Terry Frazier, who lends Geegan a hand at the apartment building, kept Buckey the cat from slipping out into the hall.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Pat Marshall, left, poses for a picture with Senior Connections Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan on Friday, Sept. 16, in the hallway at Golden Apartments in Superior. Marshall gave Geegan a container of individually-wrapped licorice sticks. Geegan frequently gives candy to a person when he drops off their meal.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Meals on Wheels drivers, left to right, Jim Geegan, Paul Goesling and Don Johnson check the names on their routes at the Yellowjacket Union on the University of Wisconsin-Superior campus before delivering meals on Friday, Sept. 16.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Mary Hall, who manages the Senior Connections Meals on Wheels site at the University of Wisconsin-Superior Yellowjacket Union, pauses from her work on Friday, Sept. 16, 2022, to talk about driver Jim Geegan, who is retiring after nearly 19 years with the program. In addition to her work as manager, Hall delivers meals.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan, left, and helper Terry Frazier shake off the rain as they prepare to deliver meals to residents at Golden Apartments in Superior on Friday, Sept. 16. A former maintenance man at Golden Apartments made the cart out of a wheelchair for Geegan to load meals into.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Senior Connections Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan, left, poses for a picture with Mary Mishler after delivering her a meal on Friday, Sept. 16.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram
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Meals on Wheels driver Jim Geegan delivers a meal along Oakes Avenue in Superior on Friday, Sept. 16. After nearly 19 years delivering meals, Geegan, 83, will retire on Friday, Sept. 30.
Maria Lockwood / Superior Telegram

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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