"Caring and committed" are words people used to describe Marshall Spalding, a member of Reynoldsburg City Council and the 2017 "Young at Heart" Senior of the Year.
"He is always so positive about everything; that was one of the big things that made me fall in love with him," said his wife, Lauren Spalding, who nominated her husband for Senior of the Year. "He is a wonderful husband and father and always very giving and loving."
His giving nature led him to personally care for his mother 12 years ago.
"Not a lot of men would be a good caretaker, personally helping with all of her needs," Lauren Spalding said.
"He had no complaints and no issues as he cared for his mom."
Then she laughed. "He isn't much of a handyman, though. He does not fix things around the house."
This is the 23rd year an outstanding senior will be honored as Senior of the Year, as someone who demonstrates exemplary service, "a zest for life" and the young-at-heart spirit in his or her life.
Sponsored by ThisWeek Community News and Modlich Monument Co., the award is open to people age 55 and older in Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking and Union counties.
Spalding and a runner-up will be honored at the Young At Heart Festival on Thursday, July 20, at the Villa Milano Banquet and Conference Center, 1630 Schrock Road, Columbus.
Handyman skills aside, Spalding, 72, can be found at the Senior Citizens of Reynoldsburg (SCOR) Center at least four days a week, helping set up games and classes and interacting with other seniors.
Judy Doran, director of SCOR, said having a city councilman as a regular participant at the center – and watching him enjoy such games as euchre, mahjong, Texas Hold 'em and Rummikub, among others – is a wonderful bonus for the center.
"I feel as though we have a representative from the city that really knows what is happening here and can be a great voice for seniors," she said.
She said 100 to 250 seniors show up at the center every day for card games, exercise classes, ballroom dancing and other activities. With more 1,600 members, it is one of the largest senior centers in central Ohio.
Spalding makes everyone he meets feel at ease, Doran said.
"He is so kind," she said. "As soon as he sees anyone, he will find something to compliment about that person, even if it is, 'I like your shoelaces today.' It makes him so pleasant to be around."
The senior center was the major reason he first ran for public office, Spalding said.
He sought the Ward 3 council post for the first time in 2013 but was unsuccessful. He won his first election for the same spot in 2015.
"There were rumblings at the time that the senior center could potentially close," Spalding said. "I was so distraught that closing it might be a possibility that I knew we needed someone on the council that could represent the center.
"I care about all these folks tremendously," he said.
Besides his council position, Spalding represents Reynoldsburg on the board for the West Licking Joint Fire District and is a member of the Reynoldsburg Community Association.
His commitment to community made him leap feet first into the spring campaign for the city tax increase, despite the fact that similar tax issues had failed five times in the past. Before Issue 11 was approved in May, Reynoldsburg had not had an income-tax increase in 33 years.
Months before Election Day, Spalding walked to 1,200 houses and led a team with co-chairperson Lisa Waickman that completed 6,800 door-to-door visits to promote the income-tax increase.
"I told someone I was certain the tax issue would pass by at least 60 percent – well before voting day," Spalding said. "I felt like we were finally giving people what they wanted, which was access to things the city does not have, like a YMCA recreation center and money to make street and infrastructure improvements."
Issue 11 was approved about 67 percent to 33 percent.
Spalding said the campaign truly was a bipartisan effort.
"We had Democratic primary candidates handing out literature for Issue 11 as well as Republican candidates," he said. "I met some wonderful people, and it opened my eyes to the fact we need to do more things together, in a bipartisan effort, to really get things done for the city."
Spalding said community service isn't the only thing that keeps him active.
He and his wife have four children and 11 grandchildren, so baby-sitting and visiting family are frequent activities.
"Baby-sitting grandchildren keeps you young in some of the best ways," he said.
Their oldest child, Sloan Spalding, is mayor of New Albany. It was Sloan's New Albany council campaign in 2009 that sparked the elder Spalding's interest in politics as he knocked on doors and made phone calls for his son's campaign. He said he also knocked on 2,500 doors for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign.
A resident of Reynoldsburg for more than 30 years, Spalding earned a bachelor's degree in medical technology and a master's degree in business administration.
He worked for 25 years as a manager in the medical-health technology field. He also is a U.S. Army veteran and an Eagle Scout.
Lauren Spalding said she is extremely proud of her husband.
"He has always been so good with people, helpful and friendly," she said. "He can make a friend in an elevator. When he starts a conversation, I think people know right away that this is a person who really cares."