(Fred Lynch) [Order this photo]
"When I retired in 2000 in Oklahoma City, we could have moved anywhere we wanted," says Austin. "We had always planned on returning to Cape Girardeau because it is the place that we wanted to be."
The Austins had lived in Cape in the 1970s and 1980s, but after moving to Oklahoma City and Bloomington, Ind., they chose to move back to Cape for a third time.
"Our kids didn't bring us back here and other relatives didn't bring us back here," says Austin. "People here in this community do more volunteer work than any place I've ever seen. We love the river. We love the hills and trees and everything about this great town."
Austin stays very busy and involved in many organizations in Cape. He is a proud member of Bethany Baptist Church, where he and his wife have been members since 2005.
"We absolutely love our church," says Austin, who serves as a deacon. "Bethany is a community sponsor for Alma Schrader School and a member of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce," says Austin. "It's one of the most important things in our lives."
Austin is also an active member of Seniors and Lawmen Together (SALT), an organization made up of senior volunteers who work with the Cape and Jackson police departments as well as the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. The group acts as a liaison between seniors and law enforcement officials.
"We host three big programs every year that serve hundreds of seniors," says Austin. "We sponsor a Senior Information Day where we offer educational programs on things such as new rules and regulations in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and we inform seniors about things such as phone scams and identity theft."
SALT also hosts an annual Christmas party and a memorial program at Cape County Park where they honor the memories of fallen police officers who are from this area.
"Currently, there are 48 police officers from this area who have lost their lives in the line of duty," says Austin. "SALT funded three monuments at Cape County Park to honor these officers, and there isn't a dry eye anywhere when we pay tribute to them."
Austin is also a representative in the Silver Haired Legislature Program, which is overseen by the Area Agency on Aging.
"We represent eight counties, and we lobby for bills that we would like to see introduced that would have a positive impact on seniors," says Austin. "For example, we are working to get Silver Alert notifications sent out about missing seniors, much like the Amber Alerts for missing children."
Austin is also helping to get a Cape Beautification Committee re-established. "I have great pride in this city, and I want everyone who lives here to be proud of Cape as well," he says.
In addition to his church and civic work, Austin has a passion for motorcycle riding.
"Next to irritating my wife, it's my favorite thing to do!" jokes Austin.
He has been touring on motorcycles for the past 40 years, and his wife has joined him on rides up until the last two years.
"Together, we've ridden through 38 states," says Austin. "Now, I do about one big trip a year. I love riding through the hills of Missouri. I love visiting the various springs that are all over the area, and I enjoy riding to Elephant Rock and through the Arcadia Valley."
Austin, who is 73, was born in Hoxie, Ark. He was in the grocery business all of his working life. In his last position, he served as director of marketing for Fleming Companies, which serviced IGA stores. His wife Fran is a retired junior high math teacher, and they have two daughters and four grandchildren.
When asked what keeps him motivated to stay so active in the community, Austin shares this: "I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to do. My wife and I have been blessed beyond belief. I want to share my blessings. There is enough bad news in the world without me participating. And, I do things for the community because I enjoy it, not out of a sense of duty or obligation."
Austin wants to see our country's values upheld as well.
"I want people to remember that this great country was founded by godly men on godly principles," says Austin. "And, I want everyone to know that life is GOOD in Cape!"