A positive outlook keeps one man going

Don Locati is so busy doing things for the community in retirement he doesn't think about quitting.

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WALLA WALLA - "Be positive," is right there on Don Locati's daily to do list. Life is a gift, according to Locati, and you create the kind of day you have and you may as well have a good one, he said.

A Walla Walla native, Locati has lived and worked here the majority of his life. He has devoted plenty of his time to helping the community in all kinds of ways, through work and civic activities.

"I ended up with a completely different career than I planned on," he said. However, he considers himself fortunate to have work he enjoyed. He liked his job at Sears so he stayed 33 years, 23 of those in management. "I retired a little early from Sears but it was the right time," he said. He has also worked many years with the Walla Walla Valley Chamber of Commerce as an ambassador and one year at the visitor center. It was at the visitor center that he connected with James Payne, executive director of Fort Walla Walla Museum.

In April 2000, he began work with the museum. Since then, his job there has continued to expand, and now he is operations manager. Locati gathers volunteers, organizing them for major events and he works on the upkeep of the museum store.

With his interest in history and the community, it stands to reason that he's also interested in genealogy. And he's currently working on compiling his family's background. He and wife Francine have three sons: one in the area, one in California and another in Minnesota.

Locati's passion for working during retirement comes from a need to be active and to contribute in some way. "It makes good health sense to keep doing something," he said.

"It's hard to keep active year around unless you are a hunter or do sports ... if you sit around, you get unhealthy and die of a heart attack. I believe in helping the community, to pay back. We make the community we have."

Things that irk Locati are people who don't vote, because they don't think it does any good, and people who complain about events, but won't participate in planning them, either.

"It's important to speak up and be heard," he explained.

In addition to his work with the museum, Locati continues to work with the Chamber and with various city committees, but said he has no real hobbies other than his many civic projects such as the annual Balloon Stampede. He's also a former president of Jaycees.

Locati stays busy, not lacking in things to which he can contribute his time and considerable talent.

A positive attitude, a sense of humor and religion are very important in Locati's life. His faith is a continuous source of strength and perspective for him; Locati attends St. Francis Catholic Church.

In addition to his interest in faith and community, Locati described himself as someone who enjoys all sports, but baseball is his favorite.

He attended the Al Somers Umpire School to become a baseball umpire, but because of health issues, had to change careers.

However, he managed to stay involved by working in the office for local baseball teams, the Walla Walla Phillies, Walla Walla Islanders and then the Walla Walla Padres when young actor Kurt Russell played on the team.

Locati has no idea how much longer he plans to work. He said that it depends on his health and for as "long as they want me around here," he laughed.

Locati and his wife have discussed traveling, perhaps a drive to California to see one son, as time and health permits.

"Life is a treasure," he said.

Karlene Ponti can be reached by calling 509-526-8324 or by e-mail at karleneponti@wwub.com.

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