92-year-old shares love of reading with local students

92-year-old shares love of reading with local students

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Uncle Travis visits the school three or four times each week without fail. Uncle Travis visits the school three or four times each week without fail.
Kinsey, a second grader, thinks Uncle Travis' stories are "cool". Kinsey, a second grader, thinks Uncle Travis' stories are "cool".
"He's more than just an old guy," said 7-year-old Glenn. "He's more than just an old guy," said 7-year-old Glenn.
"I have an axiom in life that has stood me in good stead. 'Find a need and fill it and joy will follow'," said Uncle Travis. "I have an axiom in life that has stood me in good stead. 'Find a need and fill it and joy will follow'," said Uncle Travis.

By GENE PATTERSON
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - At an age when most people are winding down their lives, 92-year-old Travis Parker will have none of that.

For nearly two decades, "Uncle Travis", as he's known to the students at A.L. Lotts Elementary School, has visited three or four times each week without fail, reading to second graders or building a bird bath with fifth graders.

Whatever the school has needed, he helped.

Second grade teacher Rebecca Tipton knows Uncle Travis well.

"He's become a celebrity in school. They can't wait to hug him and you can hear them yell his name," she said.

Uncle Travis read to Rebecca Tipton's second grade class on Tuesday. And since Halloween was upon them, his book of choice was, what else, "The Hallo-wiener".

"'Happy Halloween, my little sausage link,' said Oscar," read Uncle Travis.

Kinsey, a second grader, thinks Uncle Travis' stories are "cool".

"Because if we're in Halloween, he reads Halloween stories and at Christmastime, its Christmas too," she said.

And after the reading are questions.  There are always questions.

Someone asks if he went out on Halloween when he was young.

"Oh, we went trick-or-treating alright, but we didn't get a lot of candy. Cookies and apples and oranges," he tells the kids.

"He's more than just an old guy," said 7-year-old Glenn. "He's a lot of fun."

"He gives us lots of love and I think Uncle Travis has been a great teacher," adds Isabella.

He's been at this so long, some of his early second graders are now grown adults.

"You outlive a lot of people your age. I already have and so I'm developing new friendships," he said.

And his new little friends, he hopes, are learning to love reading like he does.

The work must suit him. Next month he'll be 93 and he said he plans to keep reading until at least 100.

"If there's a secret to old age, it's staying busy, keeping your mind busy. Be interested in others and develop friendships," he said.

Uncle Travis does more though than just stay busy by reading to the kids. He's also filling a real need.

With so many kids, volunteers like Travis help nurture students by engaging them and teaching them valuable lessons about life.

"Yes. You don't give up your dreams and you just try to make friends," says Eli.

"They know he loves them and cares for them and that's what all children need. they just want to know they're loved and cared for," said Tipton.

"I have an axiom in life that has stood me in good stead. 'Find a need and fill it and joy will follow'," said Uncle Travis.

Travis Parker - a true spirit of East Tennessee.


If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at gpatterson@wate.com.

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