Some clients become friends and family. My business partner introduced me to a family that adopted me and welcomed me with warmth, open hearts and open minds into their home. I knew Judy Camp as my real estate agent. We helped her family. She helped ours. We share in ideas over meals and support each other like a community. I first met Judy’s father Bill Stuart when I pulled up in my Nissan Leaf to develop a plan on how this wonderful property could sustain the entire family. Judy and her husband Robbin decided that the last years of their parent’s lives would be in comfort and together.

When I pulled up after Neil, I saw a kind and gentle man in his 80’s smiling and laughing. They were admiring Neil’s new Chevrolet pickup. Feeling a little lacking in my manhood, Bill walked up and asked, “What’s that? A spaceship?” Immediately, I was proud to drive an electric car as an early adopter with the meager 80 mile range. Talk about range anxiety. The family showed us around the property and I thought to myself, “This is the American Dream.” We were there however for business and we moved inside to gather around the dinner table.

Bill sat at the head of the table. Smiling always, he peacefully sat, observed and chimed in when the opportunity arose to make us all laugh. He was a wealth of knowledge, experience, grit and fun. A baby in 1929, he was full of wisdom in his 80’s. He shared during that meeting some stories about the Great Depression and how living simply together as they were on this amazing property was the key to surviving and thriving. Bill wanted to share advice and wisdom with us young guns. In that short time, he confirmed all of the economic theory, the history and the suspicions I had regarding the value of independence and self-reliance.

We were there to electrify the property with solar power and help the family afford to live together in the hot Bakersfield climate with a water well and the two homes. The whole family listened as I suggested that available rebates, utility rate schedules and fuel savings from driving electric would be the feather in the hat to going solar. The lynch pin. Bill shared stories about seeing it all go down: horse carriages, steam cars, trains, jets, diesel, gasoline and now electric vehicles. He even mentioned Henry Ford. He wanted so bad to add the electric car to the notch on his belt. We figured out a financial plan and we got it done. Bill and his amazing wife traded in the Honda for a Nissan Leaf. Robbin facilitated it.

I’ll never forget the belly laugh that ensued among my new friends and family when Judy shared an update a few weeks later. Having grown up in the Great Depression, Bill was very frugal and diligent with money and matters of practicality. Robbin looked to his father in law with great respect and a twinkle in his eye. We all had something to learn from Bill in his final golden years. I asked how the car was working out. Judy said, “Les, he LOVES it.” She said Bill expressed great excitement and as a Christian man, he had to tame his urge. He told Judy and Robbin every time he drove by the gas station, “If I was a cursing man, I would flip off the gas station as I drive by.” He loved saving money and embracing new things. To him, it was an extension of the American Dream and innovation. A new chapter.

Bill would always say, “If you’re gonna put out a dime, make sure you get two dimes back.” Of course, dimes are a dime a dozen these days and he shared that view of inflation at the table, as well. Bill loved the financial freedom the solar system and electric car provided him and the family. He was excited to be a part of the solution to the financial equation and did it with glee. I look back and realize that he didn’t just do it to save money and be more comfortable. He did it for his kids and to support our entrepreneurial spirit he so highly regarded as the American ideal.

Bill inspired me. He was proof that age doesn’t matter and that it is never too late to embrace the future. It is also never too early. If for nothing else, those you leave behind. Bill perfectly blended the past and the present, fostering a future for us all we could be proud of and have fun along the way: frugal, resilient and wise. When Bill made his decision to pour his heart and support into this concept of energy independence, he did it with a smile and a nod. Without a doubt or the blink of an eye. I don’t know if I ever saw Bill without a smile until his wife and butterfly passed. Devastated, he survived for his children and still smiled for everyone.

Covid-19 eventually took Bill’s life and so he could share a new chapter with his wife. I did not get to say bye. Knowing his days may be numbered quarantined in this struggle at the ripe age of 90, I asked Judy to let him know that he motivated my ambitions – to share my gratitude. That I loved the story about the gas stations and how he had to tame his impulse to gleefully celebrate by flipping the bird. Of course, he smiled. He endorsed Neil and I’s career with enthusiasm. I truly respected and admired his resilience, positive attitude and grit. As well, I could not be more thankful for the example Bill left for all of us.

You are never too old to have fun. You are never too old to adopt new things. You are never too old to be relevant. Everyone is young at heart. Even the young can make a difference. When the voices in your head tell you that it can’t be done or that it doesn’t matter or that no one cares, think of Bill. Bill thought of you. Yes, you can.

Covid-19 took Bill but it didn’t take away his smile. Let’s electrify the world. Let’s do it for Bill.