DALLAS — Where do you picture yourself at the age of 92? John DeShazo Jr. is right where he wants to be: at work. And for those of you have ever called in sick to work, perhaps when you really weren’t, his dedication just might put the rest of us to shame.
DeShazo doesn’t get up every morning and go to work intending to be an inspiration to the rest of us. But at 92 years old, he does just that — and he has no intention of slowing down any time soon.
He is an unmistakable fixture at the Forest Lane DART station five days a week at 7 a.m. Public transportation or a hired Lyft or Uber vehicle takes him to the station. He unfolds himself as much as he can from the car, grabs a walker and a weathered, brown briefcase, and heads toward the train.
"I get up at 4:45 a.m. I just program myself to do it. I've had to get up earlier because I'm slower. But once I get going, I'm OK."
DeShazo makes the 30-minute journey to Union Station in downtown Dallas five days a week, even though he has scoliosis so severe that doctors have told him that it can't be fixed. He gave up driving a car himself within the last year and decided that a DART train was the safest and most efficient way to keep going to work.
“I enjoy the train, also. Enjoy the people on the train," DeShazo said.
He also enjoys the train because a lifetime career of designing efficient transportation systems isn't over just yet.
Deshazo was once the Director of Transportation for the City of Dallas. And for the past 39 years, he's been a civil engineer in private practice making sure traffic, trains, and even parking garages are designed to move people in the most efficient way possible. His company, the DeShazo Group, is housed in a 3rd floor office in Union Station.
And in his office, he works next to a next to a photo of WWII General George Patton, on purpose.
"I liked his can-do attitude. And his taking charge of a situation. Just his motivation," he said.
"You feel like you're doing that now? With your age and your health condition, and here you still are,” I asked him.
"Yes,” he said.
But is his trip to work every day as painful as it looks?
"Well, it probably is. But I don't let it bother me,” he said. "Frankly I don't think about my problems."
Does he consider his situaiton a problem at all?
"That's correct. I don’t,” he said.
He explained the rest with a joke.
"Why do you keep coming to this office?” I asked him.
“You know if you retire you don't have any holidays,” he laughed.
His office is a collection of mementos from his time as an Aggie to his jars of Traffic Jam he has given out for years as promotional items. The label says “Traffic Jam: One you won't mind getting stuck in!"
But the only retirement certificate on his wall is the one from his days in the Army. And there is a lamp behind his desk fashioned out of an old parking meter. But unlike the traffic meter, he says his usefulness has not yet expired.
"I think that people need to have some type of mission in life. Many of my friends who have retired are basically envious of me that I'm still working. We all need to try to contribute in some fashion. Because there are a lot of people in need.
"All of us can make some contribution."
“Is that part of what still motivates you?" I asked.
“Yes. Exactly,” he said.
DeShazo has signs on the wall in his office reminding himself to sit up straight: to sit tall. But maybe, at 92, he already does, showing the rest of us what an honest day’s work really looks like.
"Well, frankly, as long as I can contribute,” he said, explaining that the desire to contribute, the desire to make a difference, doesn’t go away just because you happen to be 92.
So if you see John DeShazo Jr. on the train, he says don't feel sorry for him. He's still doing what he loves: going to and from the job he still wants to do.
Plus, if he takes the train he has more of his ever so valuable time to get things done.
“It gives me 30 more minutes of productivity,” he said.
Oh, and he plans to keep going to work at least until his 93rd birthday.