Practicing What He Preaches

His brain and body are in perpetual overdrive. “I think all the time – my mind is always working,” divulges ninety-six year old Methodist minister L.H. (Lafayette Henry) Mayfield. Meanwhile his body is steadily nourished by his rigorous daily schedule of exercise, whether it be water aerobics, calisthenics, or golf.

L.H. rises each morning to an hour and a half of reading and later reads again before going to bed. For the past quarter century he has expanded his mind by discoursing weekly with an intellectual circle of his peers.

Aging graces L.H. so well that he shares his insights on successful aging in speaking engagements, most recently to an audience of professional women, soroptomists, in California.

Twenty-five years ago L.H. joined a weekly intellectual discussion group of well-established men in the professions – doctors, businessmen, and fellow clergy -- to share ideas, books, and conversations. The group also makes annual pilgrimages to the Chautauqua Institution in New York, founded over a century ago to provide a setting for intellectual and spiritual growth and renewal. “The stimulation keeps my brain going,” he observes.

Engaging in discourse also keeps him open-minded. Never a denominational fanatic, L.H. says that through steady dialogue with people from other backgrounds he has grown tremendously in his appreciation for all faiths.

As well as the tenets of being open-minded and always growing in one’s ideas, L.H. submits that aging well requires thinking positively and having a sense of humor, never taking oneself too seriously. He strives to live one day at a time, not worrying, and focusing on the present, not the past or future. “I’m fairly content with my life,” L.H. says. “I’m not spending time laboring over mistakes I’ve made before.”

Along with being mentally healthy, his daily water aerobics and calisthenics sessions contribute to his excellent physical shape. L.H. regularly golfs with much younger men with whom he has no trouble keeping up.

L.H. and his wife, Gladys, have traveled extensively, first visiting Europe and then escorting groups of employees and friends through Europe, Alaska, China, New Zealand, Australia, Greece, and Scandinavia. “Travel blows your mind,” he succinctly puts it.

L.H. spent many years as an ardent photographer, taking courses at the Cincinnati Art Museum and exhibiting his work. On his travels he would easily shoot forty rolls of color film. “You paint with your camera,” he maintains.

Still driving, L.H. enjoys concerts and movies and goes to church every Sunday. He is an active participant in congregational singing, glee club, and choral groups and savors his yearly solo singing gigs in Handel’s The Messiah.

L.H. is a firm believer in not getting stagnant and always expanding. When he was 90 he got his first computer. Not too proud to ask for help, he hired a twelve-year old kid to teach him the ropes.

He had a hard time leaving his much adored home and moving into the couple’s current apartment in the Deupree House. “There wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t enjoy my house and the 120 rose bushes I tended,” he says. But his faith led him to find contentment in his new living arrangement. In April of 2007 he faced a far greater loss – the death of his daughter. He kept questioning, ‘Why her and not me?’

Yet L.H. always returns to the solace of his faith. He is now finishing writing his second book, one which stresses the importance of hope, the affirmation by which he lives his life.

[Sadly, L.H. died in July of 2009.]

L.H. Mayfield