J.W. Sutphin grew up in Carlsbad. He retired after 38 years running his own insurance agency in Albuquerque and decided that city traffic and cold winters weren’t for him. At the age of 60, he came home again.
“I lost my parents and two siblings in about 18 months,” he said. “The insurance industry was changing and I decided that life was too short. It was time to do what I wanted.” He now lives at Riverbend Retirement Community, just a few yards from the Pecos River.
J. W.’s children tease him saying he’s living in the middle of a desert. He assures them it’s an oasis and as close to heaven he has ever been. After about a year and a half of retirement, J.W. got bored, so he took a part-time job helping run the pro shop at the Lake Carlsbad Golf Course. The hours he worked crept up on him over time and now he’s almost full-time. J. W. says he loves every minute of it. “When we have a golf tournament,” he stated, “I’ll drive to work at 6:30. I get paid for setting it up and, if they need to throw one more team together, I get paid to play with the golf pro.”
Sutphin gets paid to improve his golf game; however, he also spends quite a bit of his time volunteering. He drives the bus for the retirement community. As the driver, he takes residents to Amarillo to see the musicals, to Palo Duro Canyon, to watch the bat flight program at Carlsbad Caverns, to Hobbs and to Ruidoso. J. W. had the opportunity to share a little known treat with his passengers as they made a trip to Las Vegas, New Mexico. He excitedly introduced them to an alpaca farm and then to some strawberry fields he’d known about for years. To date, he’s driven the bus to 19 excursions.
Having lost his brother at age 52 and his sister at 56, J.W. feels it’s important to be thankful for every moment. He expresses his appreciation by helping where he can. He’s often seen raking leaves for residents who aren’t able, cleaning out leaves from their carports, or setting their garbage cans out by the curb on collection day.
Volunteering is nothing new for J.W. When he lived in Albuquerque he was a “big” with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. He also coached little league baseball, soccer, and football. Coca Cola asked him to represent them by running the torch for the Olympic Games in Denver and in Atlanta. From 1980 to 1995, he volunteered at the Balloon Fiesta with Kodak Hospitality. Later, Kodak and Coca Cola asked him to participate in a pin-trade at the Olympics. In February of 2018, he was inducted into the USSSA Softball Hall of Fame.
Moving from Albuquerque to Carlsbad included leaving a two-story, five-bedroom house and moving into a 1250 square foot two-bedroom house. He had to divest himself of almost everything he owned. All his memorabilia, from the torches to the pins, fill two rooms of his house. J. W. has both torches he carried for Coca Cola plus four others for which he traded. In addition, he has over 8000 commemorative pins he accumulated while volunteering at the pin-trade for Kodak and Coca Cola. It’s a mini museum of his volunteer work inside his home.
Never having to go to a hardware store again was one of Sutphin’s bucket list items after retirement. Now, when the house needs maintenance, J. W. picks up the phone, calls it in, and goes out to play golf. Some days he goes kayaking. Or, he might walk or ride his bicycle along the river walk. Of course, he might be fishing too.
J.W. enjoys his mornings along the river walk, watching fish jumping and the sunrise. He enjoys his sunsets too. “My stress level now is so much better,” he shared. “I spent 38 years worrying about my clients. I worried if their homeowner’s coverage was sufficient or if they had the car insurance they needed. Now, if I have more than four people at the number one Tee Box, that’s my stress.”