‘I'm glad to help out'

At age 94, Carroll Adams is still a key figure in the YWCA's Charity Golf Classic 20 years after helping found the event — just one of his philanthropic endeavors.

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Carroll Adams considers his swing in preparation for grand marshal duties at the 20th Annual YWCA Charity Golf Classic Friday.w

WALLA WALLA - At 94, Carroll Adams is taking some time to enjoy the quiet life.

Unless he's volunteering in any capacity for the YWCA, working heavy equipment at Fort Walla Walla, helping a friend or taking his plane to the air.

And he'll be enjoying a mellow day on the golf course Friday.

That's when he'll serve as grand marshal of the 20th Annual YWCA Charity Golf Classic, helping keep as many as 144 golfers on track at the fundraiser.

A fundraiser he helped become reality, back when he was a spry 74-year-old.

Quiet life, indeed.

But for all his activities, Adams isn't looking for recognition.

"I enjoy watching others succeed," Adams said. "I'm a doer, not a talker."

All of that doing has helped the YWCA raise about $500,000 over 20 years, said Anne-Marie Zell Scherwin, executive director of the organization.

The YWCA has even nicknamed him their "godfather," she said.

"It was his vision that got this fundraiser started 20 years ago," Schwerin said.

Twenty years ago, then-YWCA executive director Peggy Sanderson came to Adams and a number of other men who volunteered with the group, seeking a way to fundraise and make men more aware of the issues the YWCA deals with and its activities in the community.

After some brainstorming, the golf tournament was suggested, then came to life.

Most of the funds from the tournament - the YWCA's only major fundraiser - go to its various programs, and especially domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

Scherwin estimated that the YWCA was helping about 100 women per year in 1994, when the tournament started. Now, it's about 600 per year.

And Adams has been a big part of that.

"Carroll makes trips around to all the coffee shops in the area, to bring people in for the tournament," she said.

"Because of the timing, I always got the early shift," he confirmed. "I'd be out at 5:30 every morning, talking to people and bringing them in."

It's never been a hard sell.

"It's easy to get people to come," Adams said. "It's easy to sell the YWCA. I know what wonderful work they do in the community. They do so many wonderful things, I don't even know all of it.

"They have so many programs that benefit the unfortunate and the poor," he said. "They're a wonderful organization and they get so much done with so little. It's just a wonderful group."

His work has been worth it.

"I've never seen anyone get so much mileage out of money as those women do," Adams said. "They're tighter than a bark on a tree and they don't waste a dime."

Adams has seen enough to know.

He came to Walla Walla in 1955 and opened the Carroll Adams Tractor Co. He was born in Spokane but lived in Pasadena, Calif., for a while, operating a sporting equipment business. He also spent time in Billings, Mont., in the selective service during World War II. But home was Spokane, so he came back to Washington to settle down.

Adams married, had three children - who have since had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren - built a home, a business and a life.

He worked at the tractor business fulltime through about 2004, when both he and his eldest son, Bob, retired.

He's never stopped volunteering.

Through his business, Adams worked with local Future Farmers of America chapters, helping groups at Wa-Hi and Mac-Hi with tractor maintenance and other agriculture activities. He did that for 30 or 40 years, he said.

He's worked at Fort Walla Walla before the museum existed, helping level the ground, move rocks and do other work as it came up. He still works on tractors at the site, which has since become a popular tourist destination.

On nice days, Adams can usually be found at Fort Walla Walla.

"It's part of my recreation," he said. "I enjoy it. I like it out there - the birds are screaming ... Every time they need something, I'm glad to help out.

And that is Adams' unofficial mantra.

When a neighbor needs help, he's the first there, his wife, Helen, said.

He's helped friends and family, in addition to the near-strangers that many women at the YWCA represent, Helen Adams said.

This week, he was helping a friend who can't drive with ground maintenance at a cabin outside Dayton, she said.

Adams also turned a business and recreational hobby into a way to help.

He still owns a plane and takes to the sky on a regular basis. When he owned the tractor company, he flew between shops, rather than drive.

He also used it to volunteer.

As a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer division of the Air Force, Adams was often called for emergency search and rescue operations, finding lost hikers and surveying accidents. He did that for about 10 years.

"I did it all over the country," he said.

He also worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, surveying the countryside for marijuana operations.

But for Adams, none of that should be out of the ordinary.

"I'm older than most people," he said, neatly minimizing a lifetime of service. "I've been lucky. I've taken care of myself and I've been able to do a lot more than some people."

The YWCA, for one, is glad to have him.

"It takes a community to make change happen," Scherwin said. "This golf tournament wouldn't exist without our volunteers, like Carroll."

There are about 40 volunteers who make the golf tournament spin, but Adams has often been at the lead of it, she said.

But his involvment has declined in recent years. Adams had knee surgery early this year, limiting his time on the golf course - although he still hits the links once or twice a week.

He's looking to sit a back a bit, he said.

And that means someone else needs to stand up.

"I'm gonna run out of gas one of these days," Adams said, gazing out his living room window at the Walla Walla Country Club course, which will be teeming with YWCA supporters Friday. "I hope there will be someone there to pick up the reins."

The YWCA - and everyone else Adams has touched through the years - hopes so, too.

But the day hasn't come yet. For now, Adams is still on his tractor, still in the sky and still playing golf.

And the more people he can help on the way, the better.

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