At 98 years young, this Heathrow golfer, author, pilot, and World War II veteran continues to live life to its fullest
Richard “Dick” Mottl isn’t sure when he will get back to his hometown of Chicago, where he usually spends the summers, but the 98-year-old part-time Heathrow resident for the past 25 years has plenty to keep him busy here in Seminole County. Despite his age, Dick continues to be a welcome sight on the links at Heathrow Country Club, and his added time in town could give Dick that needed boost to work on his sixth novel.
“I still enjoy playing golf,” says the World War II veteran, who appreciates his weekly nine holes with his friend and confidante Fred Colton. “I used to play very well, better than today. With writing, though, I may be out of steam.”
Dick and his late wife, Marie, initially spent two weeks a year in Heathrow, which eventually turned into six months, splitting the temperate winters in Florida with the beautiful spring and summer Midwest sunshine. But this year’s COVID-19 outbreak altered Dick’s long-standing schedule. An infection would be especially risky considering his advanced age and previous bout with asthma. Marie passed away 14 years ago; the couple met in high school and had been married for 62 years.
Fred and his wife, Linda, have become close to Dick over the years. They stay in touch by phone when he returns to Chicago, and when Dick comes back to Heathrow, they pick up where they had left off. Every Sunday, they meet for breakfast with a group of residents and often the three have dinner together. And, of course, Fred and Dick love their golf outings. Fred says he has always admired Dick’s zest for life.
“He is a Renaissance man in our midst,” says Fred, alluding to Dick serving in World War II, owning a successful business, training to become a pilot, and writing novels on the side.
“Fred is my best friend,” adds Dick. “I’ve had others, but they’re gone. That’s a problem when you live too long.”
Born October 30, 1921, Dick married Marie just before going off to war. When he returned, the two settled in the Chicago suburb of Riverside and raised two boys, Gary and Glen, now 72 and 68, respectively.
“After the war, I went into business with my brother,” Dick recalls, describing his tool-and-die company. “Twenty years after my brother died, my sons took over. Of course, they have since retired, too.”
While manufacturing was his life’s work, flying was Dick’s passion. He still belongs to a Chicago flying club, the same organization for which he once helped members build their own airplanes. A trained private pilot, Dick had to hang up his goggles at age 70 due to an issue with his vision.
Somewhere along the line, the writing bug bit Dick, as well. All five of his novels are self-published; that way he could have control over the stories he wanted to tell. Dick’s last novel, It’s a Long, Long Time, features a clandestine sniper working for the government. Dick says he’s an adventure and suspense kind of guy, one who just loves writing for writing’s sake.
“I don’t write books for profit,” he notes. “It’s a pastime, something I enjoy. And it’s something that I know I can leave behind.”
Dick attributes his longevity mostly to heredity. His grandparents lived into their 90s, as did his mother. He also benefits from a healthy lifestyle.
“I live a temperate life,” Dick says. “I don’t drink or smoke, and I have kept my weight down over the past 30 years.”
And while Dick may have slowed down over the last few decades, it is evident he has no plans of resting on his laurels.
“I look forward to being back in Chicago next summer,” he says.
And when Dick returns to Heathrow the following fall, the community looks forward to a rousing 100th birthday celebration.
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