87-year-old shows no signs of stopping

  • Volunteer George Imoto, right, and Bill Leonheart prepare salad in the kitchen of the Senior Cafe at the Petaluma People Services Center in Petaluma, Calif., on December 12, 2013. (Alvin Jornada / The Press Democrat)

George Imoto, peering through big round glasses, distributed handfuls of salad into more than 40 waiting bowls at the Petaluma People Services Center's Senior Caf? Volunteering there is just the latest way the 87-year-old is helping feed Petaluma seniors.

The Penngrove resident began volunteering with Meals on Wheels shortly after he retired. One day a week for nearly 21 years, he delivered meals to homebound seniors. He stopped only after he fell and injured himself while making deliveries.

Shortly after that, he decided he should no longer drive on account of his age, but he soon resumed volunteering, this time at the Senior Caf? A neighbor and close friend, Mary McCarthy, drives him now.

When asked how long he plans to continue, he said, "Until I can't move."

"He's running circles around me," McCarthy said with a laugh as she watched Imoto add tomato slices to the salads.

McCarthy and her family moved into Imoto's Penngrove neighborhood about eight years ago. The first person they met was Imoto, who walked down the block to greet them carrying two bucketfuls of apples and pears.

Soon after, Imoto's wife fell ill, and McCarthy's family was there to help. McCarthy's son now calls him "Grandpa."

"George has many families," said Tracy Gentry, PPSC's kitchen manager, who has worked with Imoto for eight years. Her 15-year-old son has become "ice cream buddies" with the older man, sitting on his porch to enjoy a scoop of Imoto's favorite food from time to time.

Imoto was born in Pismo Beach but moved with his parents to Penngrove in 1930 when he was a young child. His family ran one of many egg farms in the area.

But in 1942, during World War II, Imoto's family was sent to a Japanese-American internment camp in Colorado. He was 16 and spent two years there.

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