Gary Rasor and his wife, Yovone, had been trying to figure out how to get their large family together at their Durham home, but the logistics of corralling children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren from across the country proved daunting, Gary’s son, Jeff Rasor, told me recently.
“His goal was to get all of the family in one place at one time,” he said.
It took a tragedy to do that.
Family members, friends, co-workers and store vendors who hardly knew him gathered for Gary Rasor’s memorial services and funeral recently after he died from injuries suffered when he confronted a man apparently trying to walk out of the Home Depot in Hillsborough where he worked without paying for a cartful of power washers.
The man shoved Rasor, 82, to the ground, loaded his haul into the trunk of a white Hyundai Sonata and sped off.
When you read the story, see the unsettling video, your first thought will undoubtedly be “Who could be so callous as to shove an 82-year-old man who was simply doing his job?”
Your second thought should be “Why was an octogenarian still working, posted at a door and tasked with being the last line of defense against possible thieves?”
“This is not something that he had to do,” Jeff Rasor said of his dad’s job. “We tried to get him to retire a couple of years ago, at his 80th birthday party, but he wouldn’t do it. We just wanted him to enjoy his life, but he just really loved being around people.”
I made repeated calls to Home Depot’s corporate headquarters and visited the store merely to ask what was Rasor’s job description and if it entailed trying to stop people leaving the store without paying.
Those efforts were in vain, but Jeff Rasor said his dad “was from a generation where you just did whatever needed to be done.”
Having reached four score and two years, Grandpa Gary, you’d like to imagine, could’ve been at home regaling his grands and great-grands with tales of his exploits as a U.S. Army vet or as an entrepreneur in Florida and New Jersey – or maybe engaging in his favorite hobbies reading Louis L’amour paperbacks or working in his yard.
Instead he was, like a dispiriting number of older people are, still working.
Grandpa Gary was part of an intriguing trend – older workers returning to or staying in the labor force.
A survey by Businessinsider.com shows that more than 5 percent of U.S. citizens over 80 are still working – and not all of them are president of the U.S.
In 1980, fewer than 3 percent of Americans over 80 were working.
Mr. Rasor’s wife, Yovone, said in a published interview that she hopes the suspect’s conscience will persuade him to turn himself in.
Dude didn’t even break stride after knocking down an 82-year-old man, didn’t even glance over to see if he was okay.
Conscience? I think not.
If he turns himself in, it’ll likely be out of self-preservation, from knowing that an acquaintance -repulsed by the wanton disregard shown toward an elderly man and possibly to pocket the $10,000 reward the city of Hillsborough is offering - will drop a dime on him.
Bloomberg.com called workers over 75 “the next frontier of the labor force,” and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, although something is wrong with a country in which they have to continue working well beyond retirement age simply because the traditional safety nets for the elderly have been gnawed away.
The “next frontier”?
Okay, but that does not mean that this new frontier should resemble the Wild West.
That orange vest doesn’t make one invulnerable.