2010-05-20 / 15 Minutes

At 97, Sherman’s a bon vivant and an inspiration

Special to Florida Weekly

Sherman Farwell on “his” beach. Sherman Farwell on “his” beach. A favorite old adage says there’s a story in everyone. If only we could take the time to tell it, because the tale might enrich the lives of others. My adage applies to the life of Sherman Farwell, a full-time resident of Naples for almost 30 years, and a daily visitor along the Park Shore Boulevard beach.

Among a growing circle of beach regulars, he’s simply “Sherman.”

Everyone who meets him is immediately struck by his physical prowess and good looks — and that’s before they learn that Sherman is almost 97 years old. Tanned and lean, he proudly displays a 180-pound athletic frame as he makes his way down the beach at a steady stride between 7:30 and 9:30 a.m. every day, all year ’round (weather permitting). He completes his regimen with a 30-minute swim in the Gulf and then sits on the beach, holding court and greeting friends and acquaintances while keeping a keen eye out for birds and dolphins.

Sherman and a hostess after a recent breakfast at Mel’s Diner. RAINER OLBRICH / COURTESY PHOTOS Sherman and a hostess after a recent breakfast at Mel’s Diner. RAINER OLBRICH / COURTESY PHOTOS A picture of blessed health, Sherman doesn’t need any hearing aid, has no physical ailments and takes no medicines, save a few vitamins. Seven years ago, he set out and lost 45 pounds in six months by following the South Beach Diet. Today he weighs the same as he did when he got married in 1936.

Until recently, his daily walks covered more than five miles. His knees not being what they used to be, however, he’s had to cut back to about 1½ miles.

Born and raised in Danbury, Conn., Sherman worked for 64 years, always out of doors. He labored first as a nurseryman, then as a sawyer and finally as a well driller. “Unlike my oldest brother Alan, who graduated from the University of Connecticut, I never liked school that much,” he teases.

He speaks with pride about his long and productive working life from which he retired in 1977, relocating to Naples in 1982 with his childhood sweetheart and loving wife Ruth. “I even courted her as a young man on a horse that someone had given me. I rode all the way from Greenwich to Danbury, Conn., around 40 miles, I believe.”

Ruth died in her sleep at age 92 on July 3, 2003, and Sherman has adjusted well to living alone since. His eyes sparkle when he recounts his happy marriage of 67 years or speaks about his only daughter, Carol, his two grandchildren, Josh and Laura, and his two great-grandchildren, Kayleigh and Nick.

His favorite outing is breakfast at Mel’s Diner on the North Trail, where he’s been a regular for many years. As my breakfast guest, he quickly polished off his regular fare of two eggs, toast, sausage and two or three cups of coffee — not the decaf kind, either. “I come here as often as someone drives me here, and at least twice each week,” he reports.

Sherman truly lives in the now, never expressing concern about the future. He has what the French so aptly describe as joie de vivre, enjoying life to the fullest. A bon vivant in every sense of the word, he lives his unheralded life with its unglamorous daily routines, while positively affecting the lives of everyone he meets.

Compassion and a positive attitude are the greatest secrets of his successful life. Within minutes of meeting someone, he has found a new friend, as he displays friendliness while regaling others with some of his life gems or rare wisdom. Throughout, Sherman retains a distinctive humility and awe for nature and mankind.

“Life has been wonderful and continues so each and every day,” he says.

Sherman turns 97 July 23. He’s one of the many unknown personalities who grace this community and make it so special. If you’re ever on the Park Shore beach on a sunny morning, you can’t miss this friendly, athletic figure. Stop for a minute and say hello. You’ll be glad you did. 

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