Back in the ‘60s at the age of 16, Charles Millard painted his first car, a Pontiac Fire Chief . He recalls, “it was a nice clean job.” He painted the car aqua blue and says, “I’ve been a paint and body man ever since, both cars and motorcycles.”
It could be that painting vehicles is in the blood: Charles’ father was head painter at various Ford dealerships in Miami while Charles was growing up. But if painting is the influence his father had, a positive attitude toward life is the legacy he was given by his mother. He remembers her as “always smiling, always nice,” and then, sadly, her death at 42 from the same disease he now suffers from.
However painful the memory, Charles doesn’t dwell on it. In fact, he seems to have a gift for looking on the bright side.
Now a resident at Williston Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, Charles sees it this way: “I’ve been here nine months. I was supposed to die in August, but I beat that. Look, here I am!” His expression as he speaks is both peaceful and triumphant.
“I was riding a wheelchair the first two weeks I was here,” he continues. “I’m lucky, now I’m pushing ‘em.” In addition to helping fellow residents get around, Charles is happy to run errands for them, too. “This place has been great for me,” he says. “If it weren’t for this place, I’d really be in trouble. There are lots of nice people here.”
To lend additional interest to his life, Charles has planted a small flower garden out in the Rehab Center’s patio area. Folks told him he was planting at the wrong time, that his garden wouldn’t grow, but the seeds he planted must have a share in Charles’ positive energy because there they are, bursting up happy and green and healthy.
Charles has shot a lot of pool in his day and just happens to have his pool cue with him in his room at Williston Rehab. He says it would really make his day if someone could take him out to shoot a little pool. If you or someone you know can see a way to make this wish come true, please call Penny Moore or Carmen Wagner at Williston Rehab & Nursing Center (352-528-3561) to make arrangements. P.S. Charles pronounces his last name “M’lard.”
Charles Millard’s photograph was taken by Donna Mitchell, who also interviewed him and wrote this article. Donna is the Community Liaison for Williston Rehabilitation and Nursing Center as well as Parklands Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Gainesville; she also serves on the board of Friends Across the Ages, a Gainesville organization whose volunteers make friends with people living in nursing homes.