Valentine's Day may be past us, but there's a retired Marine who says I love you every day.
Every week a group of men come together at Gifford Hospital for breakfast. The meal is tasty and inexpensive. Their average age is 84. It's male companionship with a special name-- ROMEOS.
"Retired Old Men Eating Out," they laughed.
"I'm retired, but I'm not an old man," Melvin McLaughlin said.
Melvin McLaughlin-- everyone calls him the Major-- is the oldest of the posse at 94.
"I'm the luckiest man walking the streets of Randolph," he said.
And the most positive. We all know a hospital is a place for healing, and doctors, nurses and personnel all have a part in making a person get better. The Major medicine is a double-dose of kindness.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Can you imagine not doing this?
Major McLaughlin: No! Gifford is my second home.
He's been making the rounds at this small hospital seven days a week for the last 40 years.
"A day without Major is a day without sunshine," a nurse said.
He's kind of a cheerleader for the staff, making everyone feel special with one sentence.
"Did anyone today tell you that they love you?" he asked.
And he means it. The former Marine is an old softy. He doesn't hold back, even telling his familiar saying to tough old guys.
"And I know there are a lot of people who love you, probably does and probably don't!" he told one man.
It's a phrase he said to his wife Florence. It kept him in good standing with her and now with all the people at the hospital.
They met during the start of World War II. Florence was in the first class of female Marines. He vowed never to marry a woman during wartime. A week after meeting her, he proposed.
His bride, as he called her, passed away two years ago. They were together for 66 years. He misses her of course, but feels her love every day.
Reporter Joe Carroll: You're a religious man?
Major McLaughlin: Yes!
The Major is an ordained deacon at the local Baptist Church.
Joe Carroll: You don't get paid for (volunteering)?
Major McLaughlin: No, no. Well, I'm paid.
Carroll: How so?
McLaughlin: Heavenly father.
He even wins praises from the official hospital chaplain. There's no turf battle here. The chaplain calls it a joint venture.
The sign in the lobby reading "Have a nice day" seems unnecessary when you have a man like the Major, who doesn't pull in a salary, but has a wealth of friendships.
"I'm a lucky man," he said.
PO Box 4508