BREWER – Shortly after New Year’s Day, the daytime pizza delivery driver for the Brewer Pizza Hut will turn 80.
Brewer resident Walden Lawson, who likes to be called “Wally,” said he loves to drive. That’s the main reason he stays behind the wheel and continues to work.
“I feel about 35,” he said recently. “I move right along. I’d rather work than stay home. It makes you feel good.”
Lawson, who was born Jan. 5, 1924, in Bangor, is no stranger to driving.
“I worked on the road for 43 years driving an 18-wheeler,” he said.
For nearly half of those years, he drove for Allied Van Lines, based in Southern California. Then he drove freight and frozen foods for another transportation company.
Lawson said he returned to Maine because “this is my home.” He also has a sister and a brother who live in the area.
“I never stop,” he said. “When I drove trucks years ago, I drove California to Boston and that was back before they had interstates – it was two-lane roads.”
For many years, Lawson drove trucks as a team with his late wife, Georgia Lawson.
“We kept the pedal to the metal,” he said. “She drove 11 years with me. We teamed up and never stopped.”
But in October 1985, Lawson wound up on an operating table and almost didn’t get up.
“I had open-heart surgery and I died three times, but I’m still kicking,” he said with a smile.
Nowadays, Lawson works Wednesdays through Sundays, starting at 11 a.m. and working until 8 or 9 p.m. He wears a black turtleneck with a Pizza Hut logo on the neck and a hat that’s topped by a small golden angel.
Around town, people recognize Lawson by his red, five-speed Ford Focus.
“Quite a few people won’t buy a pizza unless I deliver it,” he said. “They all know me by now.”
Lawson said he likes pizza but prefers a good steak. He also takes time to enjoy some Captain Black pipe tobacco.
The people Lawson works with are “just like family,” he said.
“He’s very good at what he does,” shift manager Jane Kenny said. “He doesn’t speed, but he’s very fast. He’s nice to work with and he has a big heart.”
Even during his hours off, Lawson keeps an eye out for his fellow employees by listening to the police scanner, said Kenny.
“He’ll call us from his house and tell us of accidents and say the drivers should take a different route,” she said. “He’d give you the shirt off his back.”
Lawson said that six years ago, his manager at the time asked him when he was going to retire and his response was, “I’ll retire when I’m 80.” Now, Lawson said, he’s going to change that to 90.
Most of the people who work with Lawson are less than half his age.
“My boss, Laurie [Ossenfort], just had a baby and is only 22 years old,” he said. “I’ve got about 50 years on all of them, and I still make more deliveries then all of them.”
In addition to delivering pizzas, Lawson keeps busy at the shop by doing dishes, making boxes or preparing sauce. He says he’ll do anything to keep busy.
After delivering pizza for Brewer’s Pizza Hut for more than six years, Lawson knows his way around.
“I’ll have four or five deliveries and I’ll get back before [other drivers] get back with one,” he said. “If I don’t know where to go, my car knows the way.”
The Bangor Daily News is profiling people age 70 and older who choose to remain in the work force. We welcome suggestions for people to profile. Contact us at 990-8138 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.