What makes this Johnson County Meals on Wheels volunteer unique? His age, for one

·3 min read

Two years ago when his new car was totaled by a driver who ran a red light, Max Deweese decided to buy a 2000 Ford Taurus with 117,000 miles on it.

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be driving,” he said, explaining his decision to pay $500 for a used car instead of buying a new one.

As long as he can drive, the Overland Park resident will do what he’s done every week since 1987 when he began delivering Meals on Wheels in Johnson County.

Though 34 years of service is an unusually long time to volunteer, what makes Deweese unique among volunteers is his age. He is 100.

“He calls me ‘kid,’” said Bob Lane, 95, of Leawood.

Deweese has been taking meals to Lane and his wife, Doris, for more than 10 years. One day, Deweese slipped on the Lanes’ front steps and banged up his knee.

“I told them I needed a railing,” Deweese said.

When Deweese delivered a meal the next week, a railing had been installed.

Lane said what he likes best about the meal-delivery program is “the human touch — meeting people like Max.”

Every Wednesday, Deweese picks up insulated thermal bags of food at the Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park. He loads a bag of hot food, a bag of cold food and a bag of breakfast meals into the trunk of the Taurus next to his golf clubs.

He then sets out on a route of some 30 miles. It will take him about two hours to make between nine and 12 deliveries.

Deweese donates his time to make the deliveries. And it’s time well-spent, he said.

“I’m a preacher’s kid,” Deweese said. “The idea of helping people is instilled in me.”

Meal recipients on Max’s route welcome him into their homes. They look forward to seeing him as much as they enjoy the nutritious hot meals he brings to them.

“I brag to my family about Max,” said Elisabeth Kanter of Overland Park. “He’s walking with no cane, no walker and he’s laughing.”

She credits Deweese and the home-delivered meals with keeping her alive: “He’s made such a difference for me.”

Deweese enjoys chatting and joking with those on his route.

“I like to spend time with those who want to talk,” Deweese said. “Sometimes I’m the only one they see in a day.”

For Diana Hurst, 81, of Leawood, Deweese is an inspiration.

“He’s taken such good care of himself,” Hurst said. “It makes me want to take care of myself.”

Taking care of himself means staying active, Deweese said.

When he finishes his home-delivered meals route, Deweese plays cards in an afternoon bridge game.

“For 100 years old, Max has more energy than most,” said Paul Chapa, founder of Friends in Service of Heroes, FISH, an Olathe-based nonprofit.

“Anytime we have an event, Max is there as a volunteer.”

FISH’s mission is to help men and women who serve or who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Deweese served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II. His was the first company at Guadalcanal in August of 1942.

Deweese is proud of his military service. Recently, he delivered meals wearing khaki shorts and a black cap and shirt with the U.S. Marine Corps insignia.

Deweese admits that when he turned 90, he “slowed down a bit” and cut back on some of his volunteer activities.

Although his driver’s license expired in March, Deweese passed the eye exam to renew the license. What that means to Deweese is that he can continue delivering the meals for at least a few more years: “I can drive with my current license until 2025.”

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