If you want to see nature through the eyes of an experienced hiker, join Robert Hayes on one of his many excursions - if you can keep up with him.
He’s better known to his hiking companions as “Bullet Bob” for his speed on the hiking trails.
The retired Methodist minister is one of four recipients of the 2008 Covenant Platinum Awards presented at the Knoxville Convention Center on August 7. The awards program is sponsored by Covenant Health and honors active senior citizens who are pursuing a variety of interests after the age of 65.
Winners of the Covenant Platinum Awards are chosen by an independent panel of judges, based on their achievements in the areas of health and fitness, arts and entertainment, community service, and education.
“What sets the Covenant Platinum Awards apart from other award programs for senior citizens is that we only consider achievements after the age of 65,” says program coordinator Tonya Stoutt-Brown. “The judges felt that Mr. Hayes was a great example of someone who puts the plus in 65 plus.”
Soon after retiring from fulltime ministry, Hayes, now 74, discovered that he had more time to indulge in hiking. At the age of 65, he hiked all five trails leading to Mount LeConte in a 24-hour period. He is one of the only senior citizens ever to have accomplished this feat.
In addition to hiking an average of more than 500 miles per year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the past several years, Hayes and a group of friends now go on annual summer “adventure trips”. Since 2001, these trips have included hiking and backpacking in the Grand Canyon, the Canadian Rockies, Yellowstone, the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, Zion National Park, England, Wales, and Scotland.
While these summer adventures would be ambitious enough for most men in their 70’s, the winter adventures are even more extreme. For the past several years, Hayes has ice-climbed frozen waterfalls in New Hampshire. Last winter, he participated in a dog sledding expedition in Minnesota. Hayes is also an avid scrap booker, and has chronicled all of these adventures for his group.
Immediately after retiring at age 65 from a distinguished 40-year career as a fulltime minister in the United Methodist Church, Hayes began a second career in 1999 as the Chaplain of Asbury Place in Maryville. He was a member of the staff leadership team at the retirement and assisted living facility, visiting residents at the facility as well as the hospital, and leading Sunday evening Vesper services and weekly Bible Study classes.
An accomplished musician, Hayes volunteered his time to provide organ recitals and played the piano for many of the music programs at Asbury. He even participated in all of the Asbury Player theatrical productions, culminating in his role as Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady.”
Hayes’ artistic abilities aren’t just limited to music and drama. He also assisted in painting a mural for Asbury Place at Maryville Healthcare Center.
Since his second retirement (from Asbury, at the age of 70) Hayes has devoted much of his time to volunteer work at Camp Wesley Woods in Walland. Hayes leads hikes and teaches environmental education classes at the camp.
For one week each summer, he serves as the Minister-in-Residence at the camp. It’s such a demanding position that it’s usually reserved for active (unretired) Methodist ministers.
Hayes also volunteers to help maintain the camp’s grounds and facilities by planting flowers every spring and helping with various construction projects. Hayes also applies his construction skills to Habitat for Humanity projects in Blount County.
Hayes is an active member of the Kiwanis Club of Maryville and continues to maintain his technical skills by taking computer classes at the Everett Adult Center. He is a member of Broadway United Methodist Church where he is an active member of the United Methodist Men’s Group.
“He’s the kind of person we’re looking for,” Stoutt-Brown says of Hayes. “He’s a great role model for the rest of us and an example of how great life can be if you take care good care of your body and have a positive attitude.”
More than 100 nominees were guests of Covenant Health at the gala, enjoying lunch and a performance by The Four Lads. The Tellico Tappers also took to the state to entertain guests.
Winners were announced by WBIR Anchor Emeritus Bill Williams. Covenant Health fitness expert Missy Kane served as mistress of ceremonies.
Winners of the Covenant Platinum Awards receive a check for $500 from NHC Healthcare and a commemorative watch from Covenant Senior Services. This year’s other recipients are Roger Frey and Ruth Martin of Knoxville, and Shigeko Uppuluri of Oak Ridge.
The Covenant Platinum Awards also offer a Senior Advocate Award for a person of any age who makes life better for seniors. This year’s winner is Libba Jaco of Knoxville, honored for her work with Mobile Meals.
More information about the Covenant Platinum Awards and previous winners is available at www.covenanthealth.com.