Happy birthday: 87-year-old Ohio man finds his calling

TOLEDO, Ohio -- In Toledo, Ohio, we met an 87-year-old retired salesman with an arduous passion. Jim Gagnon likes to call the people he loves on their birthdays -- which wouldn't be so arduous, if Jim wasn't so amorous.

"I'm a lover of people. I love you guys," Jim told us. "I gotta have your birthdays."

Jim Gagnon makes a birthday call CBS News

Jim started calling people on their birthdays shortly after his 21st. And in the 66 years since, he has amassed a list of thousands of friends, former coworkers and random acquaintances - which he dutifully reconnects with every year. People like Gretchen Wood, an old customer.

"I don't know him well at all," Gretchen said.

Jean Lovejoy gave him a ride -- once.

"It was a one day thing," Jean said. "Never saw him after that."

Rob Lohner is the neighbor of a friend of his.

"Yeah, so the first time he called and wished me a happy birthday I thought, 'Why is he doing this?'" Rob said.

Jim admits that most of the people he calls -- he wouldn't know 'em if he saw 'em.

So other than saying happy birthday, how do the conversations go?

"We talk about everything," Jim says.

"Oh, he gives me different kinds of advice," Jean says.

Says Gretchen: "Kind of even look forward to it."

"I think it's nice," says Louise Hughes.

Jim met Louise at a dance 32 years ago. He says older people especially seem to enjoy the call.

"When I get an older person, they're hungry for somebody to talk to," Jim says. "I got a guy right now, he'll talk 45 minutes and I don't know a word he says because he don't talk very loud and I'll keep saying, 'Yea, yea, uh, huh, that's right.' But just let him go on talking."

And he does sometimes four or five of these calls a day. It's very time-consuming, but in an age when friending someone involves little more than clicking a mouse, it's nice to see someone making a genuine effort to stay in touch. Although, Jim says his motivation is much simpler.

"I just love the people," Jim says. "I love 'em. And what do they say in the church all the time - love thy neighbor - and I hope that's what I've done."


To contact On the Road, or to send us a story idea, email us.

  • Steve Hartman
    Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.