This WWII Veteran Teaches Kids About Love and Kindness

Wally Richardson, 95, has been sharing inspirational quotes, bookmarks and "Wallyisms" with kids in his community for over 20 years. 

- Posted on Apr 25, 2019

Wally Richardson fist-bumps some students

Who he is: Wally Richardson is a 95-year-old World War II Navy veteran who spends his mornings inspiring middle schoolers in El Dorado Hills, California. A retired pilot, Wally has made it his job for more than 20 years to school the students in something that’s not covered in class: love and kindness. Sitting with his schnauzer on the bench named for him in front of Marina Village Middle School, Wally waves at parents going by and greets students joyfully with advice such as “Never look down on anyone unless you’re helping them up.” His “Wallyisms” are so popular that the kids engage in a call-and-response with him: “If Plan A doesn’t work,” Wally calls out, and the kids shout back on cue, “There are 25 other letters in the alphabet!”

What he does: Good advice isn’t the only thing Wally dispenses. He gives out hearty fist bumps that he calls kuh-knuckles. With the help of his wife, Jenny, Wally makes bookmarks printed with his favorite sayings, then hands them out to students, along with lighted pens and colorful glass pebbles. Former students often return, clutching the well-worn bookmarks, to thank Wally and update him on their high school or college lives. Wally made such an impression on sixth grader Shelby Le Marquand that she and two other students painted Wally’s Wall, an on-campus mural with his portrait. “You truly think about your life when Wally gives you advice,” Shelby says.

Why he does it: Adolescence can be hard, and young people need all the help they can get. “The future depends on our youth,” Wally says. “This is how I show them that they’re all loved and accepted for who they are.” He believes that love is the force behind anything worth doing. “People think God is up there, but there’s no separation between you and God,” he says. “God is always working through your soul, through the way you express yourself to others.” Wally definitely practices what he preaches when he says, “Let no one come to you without leaving better and happier.”

How he does it: Wally’s PE coach in junior high exhorted the kids to remember that “what you do makes you what you are.” Wally never forgot those words and decided to see how many motivational sayings he could gather for his own growth. He collected them in a small book and today has almost 300. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,” Wally says, “yet the life of the first candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”

How you can do it: Be on the lookout for sayings that inspire you, and write them down in a journal. Stick the maxims on the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror or anywhere else you’re sure to see them daily. You can start small by sharing them on Facebook or in your church group. Put them on a bulletin board at work. Wally notes that some teachers post a saying on their classroom blackboard each week and ask the students to memorize it. Use your imagination to spread the joy. As Wally says, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is!”

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