Jim Gagnon describes himself as a lover of people.
In fact, the 87-year-old retired salesman loves people so much that he has made it his lifelong work and passion to reconnect with anyone he can on their birthdays. And we’re not just talking about family members and friends.
The Ohio man has a list of thousands of people – former co-workers, random acquaintances, even people he’s only met once – whom he calls every year to wish them a happy birthday and chat.
Shortly after his own 21st birthday, Jim started calling people on theirs and 66 years later, he’s still at it. Among those who get a call from Jim every year is an old customer, Gretchen Wood who told CBS News she doesn’t really know him well at all, but has still grown to look forward to the call; Jean Lovejoy who gave him a ride once and now says “Oh, he gives me different kinds of advice;” his friend’s neighbor Rob Loehner; and a woman whom he met at a dance 32 years ago.
The real kicker: Not only does he admit he wouldn’t be able to recognize many of the people he calls if he saw them in real life, but when you pick out a name from his list, he has no idea who the person is. He just knows the birth date and that’s all he needs. He figures the rest out on the phone.
“We talk about everything,” Jim says. From sharing stories to giving advice to sometimes just lending a listening ear, he’ll do it all.
“I got a guy right now, he’ll talk 45 minutes and I don’t know a word he says because he don’t talk very loud and I’ll keep saying, ‘Yea, yea, uh, huh, that’s right.’ But just let him go on talking,” he says when explaining how the older people especially seem to enjoy having someone to talk to.
So what’s the reason he does all this?
“I just love the people,” Jim says. “I love ’em. And what do they say in the church all the time – love thy neighbor – and I hope that’s what I’ve done.”
Check out the spotlight on Jim above for more on this sweet story.