#498 How old is too old?

Henry's hand-written biography

Hand-written text of James Arruda Henry’s autobiography, from the video below.

For James Arruda Henry, the answer to “How old is too old?” would be: “Never.” He was 96 years old when he learned to read. Once he acquired literacy, he hand-wrote his autobiography, In a Fisherman’s Language.

He might have gone to his grave unable to read and write, but he heard about George Dawson, who learned to read at the age of 98 and then co-authored his autobiography, Life Is So Good.

Henry was inspired. He started practicing his signature. Then he went on to a more challenging task, penning his life story.

Henry had captained a lobster boat, been a boxer, served in the National Guard. He married, raised a family, welcomed grandchildren. All that time, he hid a secret that shamed him. He could not read or write.

When he moved into an assisted-living residence in Mystic, Connecticut, he decided it was time to learn. Mark Hogan, a retired English teacher, became his tutor. Now Henry is a published author, with a sense of pride that shines through his eyes. His book is available in paperback and Kindle editions.

Next time I am tempted to tell myself I am too old to start something new, I’ll remember James Arruda Henry. He gives me hope.

You can follow him on Facebook.


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elysesalpeter - November 26, 2012

You’re never ever too old in my opinion – I started learning tae kwon do at 40 and 4 years later got my black belt, then at 45 started a hard core bootcamp run by marines – and my first book came out in my 40’s. We have to always keep striving and living and trying. :)

    admin - November 26, 2012

    Wonderfully expressed, Elyse, and I’ve no doubt that’s exactly what you’ll do the rest of your life.

Kathleen Comber - November 26, 2012

Love starting my day with a story that warms my heart and flushes out my eyes. An inspiration – you source the most uplifting stories – <3

    admin - November 26, 2012

    Well now, aren’t you just the sweetest?! You’ve made my day.

Naomi Baltuck - December 21, 2012

Oh, I love this story!

    admin - December 22, 2012

    Stories like this are a kick in the pants for me when I think, “I’m too old to….”

      Naomi Baltuck - December 22, 2012

      Cathryn, you will never be too old! In the decades that I I have known you, you have always had a kind of mature wisdom, but it was housed in a youthful spirit. Best wishes for a Merry Christmas, dear friend!

        admin - December 22, 2012

        Well now, aren’t you just the sweetest friend! You put a lump in my throat.

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