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Super Senior: Mike Bransfield

(WCAX)
Published: Dec. 12, 2019 at 1:33 PM EST
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Behind the senior center in Warren, people in need come for some nourishment.

Volunteers run the food shelf, and 75-year-old Mike Bransfield has been giving his time here for a decade.

"You know, everyone chips in," Bransfield said. "That's what's great about this valley, there are volunteers here that just step up to the plate all the time.

But there is another need that is common in rural Vermont -- a lack of transportation.

Thought to be the first group of its kinds in the state, Bransfield and other volunteers started Free Wheelin'. They drive people to appointments or any place they need to go -- for free. People like 89-year-old Pauline Gallagher.

Reporter Joe Carroll: How was the ride?

Pauline Gallagher: Good, good!

Reporter Joe Carroll: No idea it was going to be this popular?

Mike Bransfield: No idea, the original budget we planned for was 10,000 miles a year.

Six months into it, they're at 12,000. The majority of clients are going to either doctor appointments or an area hospital.

Unfortunately, Bransfield is no stranger to hospitals. "In 2003, my first wife, Agnes, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. And after all the treatment at Sloan Kettering, they couldn't do anymore," he said.

That's when he sold his auto repair business in Long Island and the two moved to Warren full-time. "She loved it up here so much. I said, 'What do you want to do?' And she said, she said she wanted to live the balance of her life in Vermont," Bransfield said.

He cared for her those last two years of her life. Agnes, aware of her mortality, had something on her mind. "She sat down her three daughters and said to them, your father is going to meet somebody, I hope it's sooner than later and you better not give him a hard time!" Bransfield said.

"When I learned that he had given up his life on Long Island to come and care for his wife as she was dying, I thought, there's a man who knows how to love," said Susan McKnight, the pastor at the Warren United Church. She officiated Bransfield's daughter's wedding. McKnight also lost her spouse and she fell in love with Bransfield's kindness and humility.

In July of 2008, at the same church where his daughter got married, Bransfield and McKnight tied the knot in front of an overflow crowd of 300.

"One of the things I appreciate about our marriage is tha, both of us know what it's like to love and lost someone," McKnight said.

The two feel blessed to be together and have answered the call to give back -- literally.

"That's the Free Wheelin' phone," Bransfield said, picking up the next call for assistance.

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