“I want to stay as fit as I can for as long as I can.”
by Sarah Binns, MCL Volunteer
June Fleming practically bounces into our meeting and gives me a batch of delicious carrots grown in her garden. The gesture says a lot about June: she is a woman with a generous heart who passionately loves movement, the outdoors, and the natural world. “I grew up in beautiful places and was always outside,” June says. “This was before kids sat in front of devices, you know,” she says with a laugh.
At the age of 84, June may be one of Multnomah County Library’s oldest volunteers; but with her enthusiasm for activity and commitment to service, no one could ever call her “old.” For 24 years, June has read to senior citizens through Visiting Voices, an outreach program that no longer recruits volunteers. Since 1998, she reads weekly to residents of Parkview Christian Retirement Community. “I get so much from the people I read to,” June says. “This is a bright spot in my week.” June is the last remaining volunteer in the program, which will end when June stops her visits—not that she’s planning on that any time soon: “I want to stay as fit as I can for as long as I can!” she says, determined.
June’s life began on Monterey Bay, California, where her parents were business partners in an ice creamery/cafe. Avid readers, they often read aloud to June. This gave her a lifelong love of reading that she now shares with Parkview community residents. Other adventures in June’s life include being a field hand on her son’s farm, a six-week snow camping trip almost the length of Oregon, and having books published on wilderness route finding and backpacking foods. She also taught backpacking and snow camping classes for 30 years.
In her 50s June met her beloved partner, Bob, when he took her snow camping class. Bob shared her passion for reading and encouraged June to get involved with Visiting Voices. “In 20 years together we read 146 books out loud to each other,” she says. Though Bob has passed away, June continues to read—and to hike as much as possible. “I want to die in my hiking boots,” she says, “but at the end of the trail so no one has to haul me out!” This is not a morbid thought for June, but rather an intention: “I’m not sad at all about being 84. I’m lucky to have made it this far!” May we all have as much passion and dedication at every age as June does now!
A few facts about June
Home library: Hollywood
Currently reading: The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck.
Most influential book: Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. “I bought it! I don’t usually buy books.”
Favorite section to browse: “I start with the blue DVDs, so Nova, PBS, and OPB specials.”
Favorite book from childhood: Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses. “One of the first things my husband did when he met me was give me his copy of the same book.”
Book that made you laugh or cry: Dersu Uzala by Vladimir Arsenyev, a Russian hunting and environmental memoir later made into a film.
Guilty pleasure: “Ice cream!”
E-reader or paper: Paper. “I don’t even have a device.”
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