Miamisburg donor John Anderson has lived in eight states, hiked more than 10,000 miles across 48 states, and given blood for most of his life. He marked his milestone 200th donation with Community Blood Center on Jan. 26 at the Dayton Donation Center.
“I’ve always been a donor,” John said. “I think it’s good for the body to make new blood. Most important, I love donating blood at CBC. It’s a community service helping others.”
He started donating when he was 19. “Back in the old days, when I would donate in the Air Force, they would give you half a day off.”
John was born in Lansing, Michigan in 1942 and his loyalty to the Wolverine State still runs deep. When he chose the bandage color after his donation he said, “Any blue, as long as it’s Michigan!”
His dad was a Navy veteran who moved the family back to Michigan after the end of World War II. From 1947 to 1951 they lived in government housing for vets called “Willow Run Village” where the rent was $21 a month. “We had an ice box and a coal stove!” John recalled.
During the war, the village had served as housing for workers at the Ford Motor Company Willow Run aircraft manufacturing complex in Ypsilanti. “They built 18,188 B-24 Liberator Bombers,” John said. “It was the single most mass produced bomber of WW II.”
John finished his Air Force career in Florida, worked in the aerospace, modular housing and paper industries, and moved west to study computer science and business at Eastern New Mexico University. All the while, he kept donating.
“I went to college at 30 years old on the GI bill,” he said. “I headed up getting blood donors for our blood drives.”
He took a job in Lubbock, Texas and ended up in the Miami Valley when the ownership changed hands. He worked for Appleton in West Carrollton for 20 years and retired in 2005. He still sees old colleagues who were members of their CBC blood donation LifeLeaders team.
He lost his wife Mary Jean to respiratory illness in 1989. She was just 50 years old. “She got to see both our children graduate from high school,” he said. John’s oldest grandchild graduated from the University of Dayton last year and two are at Ohio University.
Giving blood continued to be a passion for John, but he needed other ways to stay active. He found a new passion in “Volksmarching,” an organization of non-competitive fitness walking events, routes and clubs. It started in Europe and came to the U.S. as the American Volkssport Association.
John is a member of the “Ohio Wander Freunde” club in Fairborn, the oldest AVA club in the U.S. He’s walked in more than 1,309 events in 48 states and logged 10,544 miles. He’s traveled to South Dakota for the Crazy Horse monument walk, and joined 63,000 walkers for the annual crossing of Mackinac Bridget to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“When I started in ’93 we had 33 clubs in Ohio with thousands of people walking,” he said. “Now it’s down to eight clubs. The young people are just not interested.”
His walking may have been lifesaving. There is a history of heart disease in his family, and he survived a heart attack four years ago in a close call. “I did the dumbest thing, I drove myself to the hospital,” he said. After recovering he spent about two years away from donating.
John was a regular platelet and plasma donor from 2011 to 2015. He returned to CBC in 2017, donating whole blood to reach his 200th milestone. One particular memory illustrates why he remains a dedicated “Donor for Life.”
“When I did platelets they called and said we have a cancer patient, could you come in?” he said. “I got stuck in traffic and called to say I didn’t know if I could make it. They said, don’t worry, we’ll stay open.
“When I was finishing the donation they got a call from Michigan wanting to know if the product was on the road yet. You can’t have a better feeling than that.”