The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t been easy for anyone, but the isolation associated with extended lockdowns may have been particularly difficult for someone like Richard Thill, who thrives on being around people. At the age of 81, Thill has a list of activities that could exhaust someone half his age, and the common thread seems to be the involvement of large groups of people.
Thill, who became a pediatric dentist after realizing his original career path of petroleum engineering would leave him isolated in a lab most of the time, plays clarinet in a Dixieland jazz band. The group performs at senior centers and civic events. He loves boating, and competes in Chinese dragon boat racing. He also enjoys rowing. Sometimes he rows solo, but, naturally, he prefers the eight-person boat. COVID shut down the band’s performances for several months, but they are in the process of ramping up again.
Music has been integral to Thill’s life since he was a child, but that’s just the beginning of his passions. A partial list of Thill’s interests also includes: fly fishing, soccer, baseball, volleyball, travel, gardening (he’s a certified Master Gardener), and beekeeping.
“I love anything that’s outdoors and energetic,” he said.
Living in Anaheim puts Thill in the perfect position for his adventures. He’s within easy driving distance of the ocean, the mountains, and the desert.
The pandemic shut down much of Thill’s personal contact and slowed his dental practice to a near standstill, so he has turned to electronic means to stay in touch. Thill is a ham radio operator, but he has also leaned on his GrandPad to stay connected. Thill is also a Grand Advisor, and relishes the opportunity to provide input on potential improvements.
“The GrandPad has been extremely helpful. I just grab it and throw it in the truck when I’m out doing stuff,” he said. “It was handy when I had Dad, too. He could keep in touch with me and I could keep in touch with him.”
Thill’s father, Elmer, was remarkable in his own right. He died in 2020 at the age of 106, after a life every bit as active as his son’s, including his own stint as a Grand Advisor. Like his son, Elmer was a people person. He loved music and travel and attending big band concerts at Disneyland. Even at the end of his life, Elmer was studying to earn citizenship in Luxembourg, just in case he felt like relocating someday. Elmer taught his son a lot about what makes a good life, and Richard has taken those lessons to heart.
“When you’re busy, you wake up in the morning and there’s always something to do,” he said. “I have something going every day.”