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Reese driven to help seniors drive safely

April 17, 2007|by JANET HEIM

Editor's note: There are a lot of people you see around town that you recognize, but don't know anything about. People like...

Gwilym "G.T." Reese



Age: 76.

Hometown: Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

Where would you see Reese? Since 1998, Reese has been volunteering as an instructor for the AARP Driver Safety Program. Reese, who lives in State Line, Pa., teaches in both Pennsylvania and Maryland.

Reese, a retired Department of Defense employee, became interested in teaching the class after he took it and was surprised at how much he learned. Since taking the class and teaching it, he said he's become a much safer driver.

"I know I'm a safer driver than I was in my 20s. As you get older, you get a little more considerate," Reese said.

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While the class is offered through AARP, it is not just for senior drivers, said Reese, who is one of three volunteer instructors in Washington County. He has had younger students, as well as truck drivers.

The class is eight hours of classroom instruction, using a workbook AARP developed for the program, along with state rules of the road manuals. Reese follows the program, interspersing videotape segments and his own experience to enhance the class.

In Washington County, the courses are offered through the Commission on Aging. Reese credits the efforts of Judy Brewer at the Commission on Aging, with the success of the program in the county.

Courses are offered once a month, if enough people sign up. Location of the classes changes from month-to-month.

Reese recently taught a class to nine students at the Commission on Aging. That class was broken into two four-hour segments during the week.

The most popular classes are the eight-hour sessions offered on Saturdays, which allow working people to participate, Reese said.

Among other safety lessons, he reminds students, that in this age of more aggressive driving and road rage, FIDO - "forget it and drive on" - is a good motto. He also encourages is students to give the right of way, not take it.

Reese added that the classes are better attended in Pennsylvania, because it is one of 36 states that requires insurance companies to give participants who complete the course a 5 percent discount on their car insurance, provided they have no DWI charges or chargeable accidents against them.

Maryland does not have a similar law, although two or three insurance companies will give the discount, Reese said.

Reese said they can arrange to have an instructor who can speak Spanish or provide a sign-language interpreter if needed.

To become a certified instructor, Reese received training in how to conduct the classes, complete the paperwork and order supplies. He said from time-to-time, experienced instructors may be asked to sit in on a new instructor's class to give them feedback.

Reese said a student in his last class had taken his class before. It was rewarding for Reese that this gentleman knew and remembered the information from before.

"It makes my heart warm that he knows the answers. I taught him that," Reese said with pride.

Reese has been married to his wife, Patricia, for 54 years. They have four sons, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The next AARP Driver Safety Programs will be held on Saturday, April 21, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Halfway Volunteer Fire Co., and Tuesday, May 8 and Wednesday, May 9, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Ravenwood Lutheran Village in Hagerstown. The cost is $10 per person. For more information, call Judy Brewer at 3010-790-0275, ext. 220

Hobbies: Reese said woodworking is his main hobby. He likes to make furniture.

What does Reese like best about Washington County? "We do most of our shopping here. You've got better shopping malls and strip malls and you've got Panera Bread," Reese said.

He added that he and his wife make a trip to Hagerstown once a week just for the bread at Panera. Reese is also a big fan of their soups.

The Reeses lived in Gaithersburg, Md., for 25 years and have lived in State Line for 18 years, a move they made to coincide with Reese's retirement. He said they shop in Hagerstown because it is more convenient than going to Chambersburg, Pa.




If you know anyone in the community who might make an interesting Our Town feature, contact Janet Heim at 301-733-5131, ext. 2024 or e-mail janeth@herald-mail.com.

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