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Local author explores secrets to a good life

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May 6, 2009


By Carmen M. Hubbard


DAYTON DEANERY — When Larry Janning needed insights to living a long life, he turned to St. Leonard Senior Living Community. At the facility in Centerville, he received a plethora of knowledge and wisdom. He said there were so many nuggets of information, that it influenced him to write a book. 


Janning is the author of The Secret to Life, the Gift of Wisdom, for which he interviewed residents, age 60 and older, at St. Leonard, along with other seniors he encountered. Janning posed the same question to each person as he collected anecdotes at the senior community, the bank, the airport and at Ascension Parish in Kettering, where he is a parishioner. He asked them, “What do you think is the secret to a good life?” 

“So many people have responded with God, love and character. From what I observed, just about everybody included God,” said Janning, whose three daughters also inspired him to write the book. “The first thing I noticed was that people were willing to share and pass on wisdom. I wrote the book to share with the younger generation.” 


Janning’s curiosity about living a long life developed as a child when his father told him, “Don’t grow too soon old or too soon smart.” He learned his father’s advice meant he should gain wisdom with age. 



Larry Janning

In his quest, Janning said people from different religions and ethnicities gave varying answers, but many responded that being a good person and putting God first were most important. 


“As people get older they become more spiritual, their relationship with God gets stronger. The fact that I was able to learn and willing to share information and share wisdom, you really can help other people,” said Janning, who has relatives that reside at St. Leonard. 


St. Leonard residents Floss and Alf Waggener were among the couples interviewed for Janning’s book. The married couple of 66 years said God is most important in their lives.


“He still guides us and has made us more compassionate,” Floss Waggener said. “Sometimes you can’t see it, but when you look back (on your life) you can see how God guides us.”


She said she recognized God’s safekeeping when her husband, who is a retired Air Force colonel, flew fighter missions during World War II. She also recalled that her husband survived a heart attack in 1975, and underwent successful bypass surgery two years later. 


“God had us move where He wanted us,” Waggener said of her husband’s military assignments. “We met missionaries, both Catholic and Protestant, when we lived in Japan.”


Waggener, who is a Southern Baptist, said she rejoices in knowing the Lord will be with her and her husband as they age. 


She cited Isaiah 41:10: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”


“We’re not suppose to condemn (people for what they do in the world) but we don’t have to condone it,” Waggener said. “I wish others would have a personal relationship with God. You have to learn to trust in Him even when things don’t go right.” 


Waggener said she has purchased copies of Janning’s book for her two children and four grandchildren.


Joan and John Vallo, who have been married 59 years, were also included in Janning’s book.


Joan Vallo said she was impressed with Janning’s enthusiasm to seek wisdom from older residents. She shared that continuing to learn and develop her spiritual growth are most important to her in leading a good life. 


“Spiritual growth is a necessity, and it’s important to put the Lord first,” said Vallo, who attends Mass at St. Leonard. “At 80, you get so many pains, if you don’t say, ‘Okay, Lord what do you want me to do?’ you can’t get through it.”


Vallo works in St. Leonard’s volunteer office, where she uses her newly learned computer skills. She said she is enjoying this time in her life, in which she is able to watch her four children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren grow.


Debbie Parrett is the community relations specialist at St. Leonard, where the book is sold. 


“We’re thrilled (Janning) did the book. He captured the essence of our campus. There’s wisdom here that’s not evident until you start digging,” Parrett said.


Janning, who lives in Beavercreek, spent nine months visiting residents at St. Leonard to gather nuggets of wisdom.


“The book allowed me to focus on what things are important to me and what things I might have overlooked. Most readers said they keep the book as a reference,” he said. 


For more information about The Secret to Life, the Gift of Wisdom, on sale for $8, contact St. Leonard Senior Living Community at 937-439-7152. 




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