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Former WCU professor is an inspiring example of endurance at 102

It's about time a Sylva man earned the title of Person of the Week, considering at 102 years old, Richard Renfro is an example of endurance.

Three days a week, Renfro works out at Harris Regional Hospital, where he gets a lot of mileage as the oldest in the bunch.

"Well, continue exercising I would say," he said. "Of course, keep the mind active!"

It's not a stretch to say most of us know someone who could be in Cardiac Rehab Group. It includes folks who have had a stroke or heart attack.

It's also true few of us know anyone like Renfro, who stretched, ran on the treadmill and took his turn on an exercise bike.

"I look up to him every day," said Ray Parker, who just follows Renfro's lead.

"Self-sufficient, drives, goes to the grocery store," Ray marveled. "Very active for someone that age."

Nine years ago, after a stroke and heart attack, Renfro started the exercise regimen that would leave many in the dust.

"Very important. I recommend it," he said. "Keep, keep moving!!"

There are the photos of a Missouri farm boy, long before he became the picture of health.

"I was born in a farm house, let's put it that way," he explained.

"To think they have quality pictures at that age, that's wonderful," clinical coordinator Debra Lee said.

She believes Renfro's more than just a physical wonder.

"I think his attitude is the thing," Lee said. "He's got a good attitude."

Generations before My Little Pony, Renfro had his little pony.

"Rode a pony to school when I was seven to about nine," he reminisced. "Four miles a day."

From those simpler times, he grew up to be a World War II Navy veteran.

If you'd have told Renfro just how long he'd live and prosper, he probably would have raised some eyebrows.

"Well, I would have been surprised," he said at the thought of longevity.

Later, he was a music professor at Western North Carolina for 30 years (1950-80). He was married to his late wife Marian for 64 years.

Parker often saw them walk together.

"Well, he happens to be my neighbor, that's right," Parker said.

Renfro's age is more than just a number, he's become the heart and soul of the support system.

"Great inspiration to all of us," Parker said.

Life's not a sprint, it's a marathon, they say. Many still look to Renfro to set the pace.

"Come regularly," Renfro said, pedaling his way toward 103.

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