97-year-old Mel Hays says the club is a hit with residents
by: Danny Peterson, Nexstar Media Wire
Posted: May 8, 2021 / 8:12 am EDT
Updated: May 8, 2021 / 8:12 a.m. EDT
BETHANY, Ore. (KOIN) – Mel Hays, a 97-year-old former WWII fighter pilot, started a scooter club in his retirement home that is very popular with residents.
Now between eight and twelve people drive up to five miles with Hays on a scooter every Friday. Hays plans the excursions in advance and defines the local hiking trails on area maps.
It started with his friend Ole Barker, whose husband Bert used a mobility scooter to get around. Bert wanted to go on day trips outside, but needed someone to take him.
Hays also needed a scooter to get around, but agreed to ride with Bert to help navigate.
Mel Hays is a retired Lt. Col. in the United States Air Force (photo courtesy Barbara Johnson).
“He had so much fun that I said, well, ‘Do you want to go back here? ‘So I took it a second time … and said,’ I’m going to start a club ‘and that’s how it started. “
His friend Ole even joined in the fun. Although she doesn’t need a scooter to get around, she bought one to take the weekly trips and be closer to her husband.
“We have all become very close friends. And so it’s sociable to come out and see the fresh air, to have all the landscapes here, trees and ducks and birds, all the good things in life, ”said Ole Barker, 95.
Ole helps organize the Laurel Parc Scooter Club as secretary, while Hays oversees the logistics of the trips. It’s mostly running smoothly, but occasionally, according to Hays, a participant forgets to charge their battery the night before.
Every time that happened, he would bring the stranded driver back by letting him drive him back to home base in his scooter – on his lap. He coordinates the dead scooter to be picked up and returned by an SUV.
Mel Hays is a retired Lt. Col. in the United States Air Force where he led a fleet in and out of missions in Europe during World War II (photo courtesy Barbara Johnson).
Hays has experience leading a fleet on an adventure and bringing them back home safely. He is a retired Lt. Col. in the United States Air Force who survived a plane crash over what was then Yugoslavia in Europe during World War II.
“I had to fly it into the ground at 165 mph. Otherwise it wouldn’t fly, ”said Hays.
The plane was hampered by a drop tank that crashed into the windshield and removed part of its tail, he said.
“I ended up upside down in a vineyard. And I couldn’t even see I was underground, ”said Hays. “They finally had to dig a trench next to the plane and cut out the side of the plane with axes.”
Remarkably, it was unharmed.
He remembered another time when a pilot led the fleet astray on the way from Germany to the home base. He asked the pilot to follow him – but the pilot disagreed – and Hays moved away from the group and made it back safely. Hays survived, but the lead pilot led the group of four into a mountain north of the air force base, where they all died.
Mel Hays is a retired Lt. Col. in the United States Air Force who is planning a course here for one of his World War II missions (photo courtesy Barbara Johnson).
Hays continued to use his excellent navigational skills when he served for 16 years with Oregon’s Mounted Posses, a volunteer group of horse search and rescue workers. He was president of the nationwide organization for two years.
“I was only born to help people,” said Hays.
He added that running the club is a burden at his age, which is why he is currently looking for a replacement to take over his duties. However, the club is becoming increasingly popular. Another old people’s home nearby is showing interest in founding its own scooter group.
Laurel Parc supported the club by providing flags for drivers in exchange for free advertising.