Meet Doug

It’s possible you already know Doug. He has been an active part of this community for almost 90 years, and he has nearly as many interests as he has friends. Sports, trains, emergency vehicles, looking at old magazines, eating out, music, laughing, doing things, being with people and having fun. In other words, life.

Doug came to LBSA in the mid-1930s when there were not a lot of options for individuals with developmental disabilities. The most common scenario of the time was a large state institution where people were mostly kept isolated from the community. Given Doug’s enthusiasm for life and everyone he meets, living in a state facility with limited options for engaging in the community likely would not have been a good fit.

“He always wants to do things and go places,” says Kent Holden, who met Doug in 1974. At the time, LBSA staff sought out community members to engage with residents who didn’t have a lot of family to interact with. Kent and Doug were introduced because they shared a passion for sports. Kent says one of the first outings he can remember with Doug was a trip to explore a cave in southern Minnesota. “Doug seemed to enjoy that. He was a lot of fun and we got to know each other and enjoyed being together.” It was clear that Doug felt the same way. Kent started taking Doug out to high school and college sporting events, Twins games and regular trips out to eat. Kent would even bring Doug out to his farm. “Doug enjoyed that, even though he would mainly sit in the truck and give us orders and tell us what to do,” Kent says with a laugh.

When he was more mobile, Doug would often walk to downtown Northfield from the LBSA campus to visit stores and hang out at the library to look through magazines and newspapers. LBSA’s music program provided additional opportunities to be part of the local community. He has participated in many musicals and other performances over the years. He sang in the LBSA choir up until just a few years ago. Many years back, he even played in the LBSA band. According to Kent, Doug always wanted to be the band director, so at performances they would usually let Doug direct one song.

After he first meets you, Doug will remember you. According to LBSA’s Dietary Manager, Eileen Anderson, who has known Doug for nearly 40 years, “He is a really kind person. If you’re nice to him, he knows he’s got a friend and he will ask about how you are doing all the time.” Although Doug doesn’t always know how to express himself with words, his friends are clearly an important part of his life and have made an impact on him. When Doug was told recently about a friend who would be having surgery, Doug said repeatedly, “Poor Jim. Poor Jim.” When one of Doug’s friends, Jerome (who used to bring Doug ice cream from time to time), passed away several months ago, Doug would periodically be seen crying to himself. “No more Jerome. No more Jerome.”

The LBSA kitchen has been Doug’s place of employment as long as anyone can recall, and it also provides Doug with a sense of community. Doug worked in the LBSA kitchen washing dishes, sweeping, taking out trash, mopping the floor and helping with whatever needed doing. About three years ago, Doug retired, although he would probably still be working today if he wasn’t confined to a wheelchair. Doug is still part of the kitchen team, as he comes to work with Eileen each day and hangs out in the kitchen office interacting with kitchen team members (and maybe giving a few orders).

Doug is a people magnet. He is quick with a smile and a question with people he encounters, and people enjoy Doug just as much, resulting in the mutual benefits of friendships with people like Eileen and Kent and the many, many other people that Doug calls a friend. Kent shares that he has not only enjoyed Doug’s sense of humor and fun and their friendship, but that he has learned a lot from Doug’s positive outlook on life. “We are all the same in terms of our wants and needs. The importance of appreciating the joy of life and the humor of life.”

Doug still seems to be energized by the experiences of daily life. So much so, that Doug refuses to discuss death. Kent, who is now Doug’s legal guardian, shared a conversation he tried to have with Doug recently to understand more about Doug’s post-life wishes. Doug responded, “I’m not going to die.”

If there is any correlation between a person’s positive attitude and zest for living and longevity, Doug will likely be with us for many more years. More time to laugh, to have fun and to experience the joy of community.