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Artisan and mentor Wally models the joy of giving back

Wally for Voices of Audicus

Whatever you think the life of a retiree with hearing aids looks like, this ain’t it. In his Voices of Audicus interview, mentor, artisan, and loving husband Wally shares his story and becomes our unofficial role model.  

Can you tell us about your career?

My professional life includes occupations such as a magazine editor, a lobbyist in the NJ State legislature, inside sales manager, distribution center manager, and also a webmaster. Now that I am retired I’ve become fascinated with woodworking, designing and handcrafting writing instruments and have also added mentoring into the mix.

“Now that I am retired I’ve become fascinated with woodworking, designing and handcrafting writing instruments and have also added mentoring into the mix.”

What does an amazing weekend look like?

In the hot weather, I tend to not stray very far from air-conditioned spaces. Usually, my wife and I will spend time binge-watching our favorite shows. I love the fall and winter. That’s just the opposite of my wife. I guess it does prove that opposites attract. I like to do outside work around the house and take “leaf peeping” trips with my wife.

Who do you love spending time with?

Obviously, that would be my best friend, my wife. Coming in second would be the young men that I mentor. It’s such an honor they have allowed me into their lives. They give me the opportunity to see the world from a fresh perspective.

“Obviously, that would be my best friend, my wife. Coming in second would be the young men that I mentor.”

What moments have been most pivotal in your life?

I would have to say my wedding day ranks #1. College graduation day would come in second as it’s the culmination of 12 years of hard work. The third would be the passing of my mother. She died at 97 years of life and her passing reminds me of my own mortality and the need to experience all that life has to offer.

Who inspires you?

Believe it or not, besides my wife, it’s one of my mentees. He came to the United State from Haiti at the age of 10 after losing his entire family in the 2010 earthquake. His resilience, in spite of this tragedy, never ceases to amaze me. At times, I’m not sure who’s benefiting more from our relationship. I feel that I’ve got the better half of our bargain. He sees things from an entirely different viewpoint makes you stop and think. He asks the most profound questions. I realized how much I take for granted and he doesn’t. It makes me want to double down on my efforts to help mentor and we’ve been together now for half a year and we get along very very well.

“He came to the United State from Haiti at the age of 10 after losing his entire family in the 2010 earthquake. His resilience, in spite of this tragedy, never ceases to amaze me. At times, I’m not sure who’s benefiting more from our relationship.”

Where do you mentor?

I volunteer as a mentor to two wonderful organizations. Anchor House which assists homeless kids is where I met my mentee. And the New Jersey Youth Challenge Academy helps young men and women who realize they’ve made some bad decisions in life and have expressed a desire to turn their life around. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be matched with my third cadet and I’m just as excited to begin working with him as I was when I was matched with my first cadet.

My only regret is that I never discovered mentoring earlier in life. Imagine how many more young men I could have helped. I never tire of seeing the expressions on their faces when they discover an entirely new way of solving one of life’s problems.

“My only regret is that I never discovered mentoring earlier in life.”

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Woodworking. My handcrafted writing instruments were selected as celebrity gifts for the 2012 Academy Awards The following year my handcrafted wine bottle stoppers were selected as celebrity gifts for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival. These events, while impressive in their own right, these have now taken second to being a mentor.

How did you get into woodworking?

I was working at a newspaper where I saw a pen making class and got hooked. I like to cut very intricate things to be more artistically expressive. The enjoyment of being able to take a block of wood and create something beautiful with it gives a lot of satisfaction. I created special pens for the cadets’ graduation based on their interests. I love giving something to someone and they open it up and their jaw drops, that’s when I know I’ve done a good job.

“The enjoyment of being able to take a block of wood and create something beautiful with it gives a lot of satisfaction.”

Was there a sound you realize you’d been missing before getting hearing aids?

Primarily music. There were instruments I didn’t realize had been playing in the background. I thought the music I was listening to without the hearing aid had sounded nice. But now that I hear with more fidelity, my enjoyment has doubled or quadrupled for that piece of music.  And that’s a gift to me that is enormous. Because I’ve discovered something new, even though it was something old. I think I may have had a hearing problem from early on in life because I couldn’t understand all the lyrics to popular songs on the radio. Then when I heard them again I think ‘Oh, that’s what he’s saying.’

“Now that I hear with more fidelity, my enjoyment has doubled or quadrupled for that piece of music.  And that’s a gift to me that is enormous.”

I took your online hearing test and the hearing aids I got from Audicus were programmed better than the ones from a national chain where I paid $6,000. Then two years later they said I needed a second pair for even more. I decided to go with Audicus and I’m so glad I did.

Voices of Audicus shares the empowering stories of our customers in their own words to create a more positive conversation around hearing loss. To hear more inspiring stories like Wally’s, subscribe to our newsletter below. Explore our blog to learn more about hearing loss and hearing health.

Check out Wally’s incredible pens here

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