Bill Hanna, 90, turns in driver's license
Not too many people can say they have had a driver's license for 73 years. Bill Hanna, a long-time Edgartown resident who will turn 91 next month, has driven cars since he was 18, drove a horse and team delivering milk before that, and had a bus driver's license for 52 years.
But Mr. Hanna is not trying to break any records. In fact, he voluntarily turned in his license recently to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and he didn't give it up because of any driving problems.
"I've got a perfect record as far as driving," Mr. Hanna proudly stated during a recent interview at the Edgartown Council on Aging, also called The Anchors. The police only stopped him once because, he said, "I was three or four miles over the speed limit." He was given a verbal warning.
Bill Hanna's made his decision in the interest of safety, his own and others'. Photo by Susan Vaughn
Mr. Hanna said that his real reason for giving up his license was simple: "I don't want to hurt nobody. I don't want anybody to hurt me."
If Mr. Hanna had chosen to renew his license in October, the motor vehicle registry wouldn't have given him any kind of test for driving ability or even eyesight, but he said he knew that if they did, he couldn't pass the eye test. A stroke suffered a few years ago affected his right side and caused him to lose full vision in his right eye.
Unlike many elderly drivers who hang on to their license perhaps longer than they should, Mr. Hanna clearly thought out his decision to relinquish his. He had just bought a 1997 red Jeep in January to replace his old Celebrity, well recognized by its "Shanty" license plate. He also sold the Jeep.
"Giving up one's license is the hardest and last thing for seniors. It's taking away their freedom," said Laurie Schreiber, executive director of the Edgartown Council on Aging, who sat in on the interview. "Once in a while we have someone like Mr. Hanna who realizes it's time to give it (the license) up."
Ms. Schreiber wanted to draw attention to Mr. Hanna's decision in the hope that it would serve as an example to other seniors. She and the other council staff call him "our poster child."
Mr. Hanna said he is fortunate to live near downtown with family, and he can walk to many places with the help of a cane. "I feel lucky," he said. "I can still walk. The good Lord gave me legs, and I'm going to use them."
Mr. Hanna has had a long and active life on the Vineyard since coming here aboard the USS Leonard Wood with the Coast Guard during World War II. He served in stations at Gay Head, Menemsha, and Cape Poge.
He ended up staying on the Vineyard after marrying Louise Luce. He succinctly described his working life, listing all the dates and years at each job. He was a bartender for 38 years, working at the Kelley House, and the "original" Shanty, and finally The Cafe, which is now the Wharf. He also did a stint driving buses for the Vineyard Transit Authority for 11 years, until 1999.
Mr. Hanna's wife died in 2003 after 59 years of marriage. Their son also died a few years ago.
Mr. Hanna turned over his home on Norton Street to his granddaughter Karen Shaw and her husband, Wyman. They have built a guesthouse for him that will adjoin the new home they plan to build on the property.
Mr. Hanna has become a familiar figure at the Anchors, where he attends the Island Councils on Aging supportive day program on Tuesdays. He candidly admits he attends the program for the company because, "I'm alone."
"He gives everyone encouragement to keep going. He's incredible," Ms. Schreiber said.
Ms. Schreiber said Mr. Hanna can also take advantage of the Edgartown council's free taxi service for seniors to anywhere they need to go: the post office, Stop & Shop, a doctor's appointment. When Ms. Schreiber asked him how he felt about using a taxi, Mr. Hanna immediately answered, "very good."
Mr. Hanna said he will gladly use that service, which is provided by the Friends of the Edgartown Council on Aging. Seniors are only asked to call the Anchors a day in advance to reserve a taxi ride.
The council plans to apply for a grant to buy its own vehicle, which might take people farther than Edgartown, she said. About 10 people are currently using the free taxi service, and Ms. Schreiber said she hopes more seniors will take advantage of it. "We hope it will grow, keeping the roads safer and keeping the seniors safer," she said. A ride on a Vineyard Transportation Authority bus within town also is free, she noted.
When Ms. Schreiber mentioned to Mr. Hanna that he could get a VTA senior bus pass for $10 a year that will take him anywhere on the Island, he pulled out his wallet and handed her $10. She later gave him his new pass.
Other low-cost transportation options for the Edgartown elderly include half-price taxi rides to Martha's Vineyard Hospital or doctor appointments in other towns, at a cost of $15. Those rides are provided through another special account, Ms. Schreiber said. The Edgartown Council on Aging is the only senior center that provides free taxi service within the town, but other transportation options are available for all Island seniors.
Through the Island Councils on Aging, a separate nonprofit agency, all seniors can get taxi rides from the ferry to medical appointments in Falmouth, Mashpee, Sandwich, and Hyannis for suggested donations. A Medivan that goes to Boston-area medical sites also is available to those 60 and over and to disabled people on Tuesdays through the VTA. The Lift is offered to homebound people who qualify for the service. Road to Recovery also offers transportation to cancer patients.
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