Richard Tumblin says ‘never quit’

Sandra ClarkFountain City, Get Up & Go

Richard E. Tumblin is all about staying active. “I think people die because they quit,” he says.


Richard and I caught up at Litton’s this week – our first time to have lunch without the swirl of the Fountain City Business and Professional Association. That’s where we met, some 30 or more years ago. The club met at Louis’ Restaurant when it was named Arthur’s Steak and Lobster.

Richard arrived for lunch in a pink bow tie and a shiny black Lexus with a sunroof. At 89, he puts on business attire and goes to the office daily. “I’d be lying if I said I was working,” he jokes. Unlike brothers Jim and John, he is not an optometrist. The middle Tumblin son opted for a career in insurance sales. He says he liked the hours. “You could set your own schedule, but if you didn’t work you might starve.”

He now owns Richard Tumblin Insurance and operates out of an office on Magnolia Avenue. He and wife Suzanne raised three children in Fountain City: Richard John, Cathy and David. Both Suzanne and Richard John died of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The progressive disease of the central nervous system has no treatment and no cure.

Richard still attends an ALS support group where he talks about care-giving and gives away guardian angel lapel pins. “I tell them, never quit.”

He sees volunteer opportunities all around – schools, hospitals, nursing homes. He uses a computer at work, says if you’re going to do anything in business you have to, but he’s not a fan. “I’ve told my kids when they are asked for my cause of death, say computer.”

That may be some time from now. Richard’s older brother, Jim, who researches Fountain City history and writes once a month for www.KnoxTNToday.com, turned 93 this month. Their mother, Gladys, lived to age 105.

Richard tells about her deciding to move to independent living and then to assisted living. She gave away her car at age 92. “She made all of those decisions,” he says. And Richard expects to make those decisions for himself when “my fingers and buttons don’t work.”

Meanwhile, he’ll go to the office every day. He will stay active with Scouts – “at the council level, no sleeping in the woods.” He will continue his volunteer and church work. And he will be called on for public prayers. He talks to God in a conversational tone. “I just visit with Him.”

Sandra Clark writes the Get Up and Go feature each Wednesday. To nominate someone to be featured, contact her at sandra.clark@knoxtntoday.com.

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