Former Mesa legislator DeWitt happy as gardener - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Former Mesa legislator DeWitt happy as gardener

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Posted: Monday, April 3, 2006 6:59 am | Updated: 4:50 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

L. Waldo DeWitt enjoys telling stories. And at 90, the Mesa man has a lot of stories to tell. Ask him for a tour of his Mesa home, and he’ll slowly walk through each room, telling stories about every item overfilling the Mesa landmark he’s lived in for 60 years.

He points to rusty pots, pans and an old waffle iron, remembering his days camping out on the range, watching cattle and doing what he loves best: Chasing cows over the hills.

Weathered, wooden signs hang on the wall from his days campaigning for four terms on the Arizona Legislature, and to become the first Republican state tax commissioner.

He looks up to his collection of license plates. He proudly points out he has every state, and several foreign plates, nailed up in alphabetical order. The plates prompt him to tell a story about his days as the manager of the Maricopa County Motor Vehicle Division, which he did for 18 years.

Always a cowboy, he said he never wore a suit, and was content with his Western clothes, boots and Stetson.

His backyard garden has rows and rows of vegetables. Even though he said he’s “too old and lazy,” he spends hours a day working in his garden, pulling weeds and tending to his broccoli, turnips, beets, carrots, peas, zucchini, squash, corn, string beans, cabbage, tomatoes and bell peppers.

He points out small peaches growing on a tree, and names the other fruit trees growing around the yard — tangerine, orange, lemon and grapefruit. The fruits and vegetables lead him to talk about cooking for his six children. Four live within a block of his house.

He also cooks and cares for his wife of 66 years, Nancy, who said she was attracted to her husband because he was “tall, dark and handsome.”

He is known for his large “grandpa” breakfasts, zucchini relish and canned

strawberry jam. He canned 24 jars last week.

He remembers a day when he woke early to tend to his cows, horses, pigs and turkeys that roamed 80 acres formerly around his home. It was back in the day when you couldn’t see another house for miles.

March 28 was his 90th birthday. About 300 people gathered to celebrate the man with a storied past.

DeWitt proudly said he remembered everyone’s name.

There are many more stories to tell, from his days as a Mormon bishop to his sevenday-a-week, 16-hour-a-day job at age 16. He made $5 a week.

But you’ll have to ask DeWitt about that.

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