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Southwest Spotlight: ‘Will’ Power: 90-year-old Dickinson man doesn't let age slow him down

Press Photo by Virginia Grantier Willard "Will" Beaudoin, 90, of Dickinson, recently returned from a solo Amtrak train trip of thousands of miles to visit relatives and friends. It took him approximately 6,000 miles across the country.

There was a Dickinson man who, with his suitcase on wheels and a backpack he carries, took off for a two-month-long train trip to sightsee and visit relatives. Some people may have been worried for him.

But this wasn’t the first such trip for this 90-year-old man.

Traveler Willard “Will” Beaudoin is back now — from his third train trip in the last year, and is contemplating taking another in the fall.

Beaudoin, a long-time Dickinson businessman who still works part-time — and walks more than a mile a day for exercise and does his own cooking — said he doesn’t view being older like a lot of people do.

“It’s just another stage in life,” he said Thursday in an interview at his apartment that’s in a downtown Dickinson building with tenants of various ages — not a senior citizen complex.

And speaking of stages, Beaudoin is still the owner and operator of Center Stage Curtain Co., which has made stage curtains for schools and other facilities, among other projects, in 13 states. At this point though, he’s more of an advisor and doesn’t do much of the physical work.

“I’ll do the measuring, if I have to,” he said.

He still drives and delivers communion on Sundays to Catholics who are homebound.

Also, there are new projects in the pipeline for Beaudoin. He’s now working on a new idea that his architect son thinks he should patent. So it’s still kind of top-secret.

Beaudoin said it’s important to him to be a good role model for his family. Among other things, he has had to work on is moving forward in the face of great loss.

“She was my friend for 80 years … a marvelous companion,” Beaudoin said about his wife, Joan, mother of their 13 children.

He met Joan in the fourth grade. They were in St. Patrick’s School’s first graduating class, 1937.

She died 15 months ago.

In his living room, a battery-operated candle from her funeral has been shining its light continuously since then. Poster-sized collages of photos and photo albums of her are within easy reach of his easy chair. Also in the room, a wall of framed pictures of Jesus, Mary, a saint, other family photos and religious items, and shelves of books — he likes biographies best.

Sitting there, Beaudoin said he sometimes thinks how much he wishes that Joan would just walk into the room. Every morning, during his 30-minute prayer session, one prayer that gives him comfort begins this way: “Death has taken me from this world, and though we are apart, I am still near. All that we meant to each other remains true, in trust and faith, have no fear…”

“I believe very strongly in prayer. … I know it gets results,” he said.

Beaudoin, who owned a furniture store for years in Dickinson before he got into stage curtains, said he has had tremendous support from family and friends, and continues on.

He still wakes up at 6 a.m., shaves, cleans up and tries to get his walk in before going to daily mass at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. He also walks to the library almost every day to read a couple of newspapers. He likes to watch sports, although the Minnesota Twins are second to last in the American League Central Division. In the winter time, he can still get his walks in by driving to the college or West River Community Center and walking indoors. That’s essential, he said.

“If I miss a couple walks I notice it. … You’ve got to keep (it going),” he said.

And he travels.

Beaudoin said he traveled thousands of miles — during his most recent trip he put on approximately 6,000 miles visiting Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, California, Washington state, Colorado, Nebraska and Wisconsin.

Beaudoin said it was too expensive to pay for sleeper cars, so he would sleep in the regular train seat. Some stretches were harder than others — like the 16-hour ride from Grand Junction, Colo., to Omaha, Neb. For exercise, to keep up his daily walking habit, he’d walk up and down the cars.

There is a lot of family out there — 128 family members, including grown kids, their spouses, grandkids and great-grandkids — and three on the way. This trip he made a point to see everyone from daughters, nieces to family he’s never met before. He even sat down with a dear friend’s son, who introduced him to smoking a pipe this trip, which he partakes in occasionally. There were museum visits, concerts and a lot of chatting.

Beaudoin said he strives to reach new places, and the people he visits get to see a 90-year-old man striving on “Will” power.