LONDON, Ark. (KTHV) - Alongside the Arkansas River in London, Don Bragdon is enjoying the freedom of retirement, but instead of spending his days as most other retirees typically would, he's doing something to make a difference both for himself and others.
A couples of years into Bragdon's 1992 retirement in, he suffered an aneurysm and was confined to a wheel chair, but he didn't let it stop him. Instead, he began to develop new ways to get around and do all the things he enjoys by modifying his furniture and work equipment to enhance his quality of life.
"Life's too good. I like life...why waste it?" asked Bragdon. "It's another way of life. It's not the same, but it's my way."
Bragdon said his father worked at body shop, so he grew up around cars and knows the ins and outs of mechanics. Using his John Deere tractor, Bragdon created a way to mow the lawn, push dirt, and spread sand-he refers to it as his "Don Dear."
"I have everything for it. I have a sweeper I can put on the front--just hook it on, sweep the drive. I have blade on it, so I can push dirt or snow. I got a spreader for spreading sand in the winter time," he listed.
An electric wench pulls him onto a ramp and another modification lifts the ramp and secures him in place. The Don Dear, he said, steers very much like a fork lift and even has a trailer that can be attached to the rear for hauling.
He has even modified a roto-tiller to help him navigate the terrain around his home and get him out to his boat dock. In addition, he has a car lift that allows him to change the oil in his van.
Getting him out into the fresh air, his inventions keep him moving and keep him happy.
When asked if his retirement has treated him well, he said it definitely has.
"When I woke up, I was pretty bitter," he recalled. "It took a while but then I thought 'Why should I do nothing? I should do something, you know? I just can't sit around, feeling sorry for myself.'"
He said people have asked why he never used an electric scooter; he explained that with all the back-and-forth of working in his shop, the scooters don't last very long.
The things he has done to keep himself mobile and self-sufficient has inspired others, and he sometimes speaks with wounded or disabled veterans to help them cope with the changes they've encountered in their lives.
Bragdon added that he would like to help others by showing them how he rebuilds his equipment. If you are interested in learning more, you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To listen to the full interview with Don Bragdon, you can watch the THV 11 Web Extra attached this story on our desktop site.