Any mother who hears that her little girl has been approached by a stranger would be concerned. So, when one young girl admitted to talking to a man before school, her mother knew she had to drive over and check things out. She was left stunned to learn what he’s been doing for 15 years.
Gina Arnold was perplexed when her young daughter Aubrey became upset after forgetting to tell her mom to drop her off along the street, down from her school. As the mother questioned her daughter about why she was so displeased, Aubrey admitted she wanted to “talk to the cute, little old man,” named Wally Richardson, before going to class.
Aubrey proceeded to reveal to her mother that Wally always waits outside the school for the children and his mere presence makes her day. Although this would likely cause any mother a bit of alarm initially, Gina knew there was no reason to worry when she met the elderly man the kids had dubbed “Mr. Knuckles.”
Wally Richardson, a 94-year-old veteran who joined the U.S. Navy during World War II and was a fighter pilot in the Korean War, hasn’t quit serving his country yet. Instead of a war zone, however, he’s now taken the fight to better our nation to the sidewalk outside of his local middle school, where he has earned the nickname “Mr. Knuckles” for what he does to the kids there.
No, the California resident isn’t abusing them as the name might initially make one think. He’s not offering them “knuckle sandwiches.” Instead, Mr. Knuckles is giving the kids words of wisdom, complete with a complimentary “fist bump” before they start their day. “He talks about kindness and gives us advice and fist bumps — it’s the best part of the day,” Audrey told her mother, revealing how she gets her first lesson of the day before school even starts.
Aubrey’s not the only kid at Marina Village Middle School in El Dorado Hills, California, who can’t get enough of their beloved Mr. Knuckles, either. Selflessly, Wally, who is well into his retirement years, rises and waits to greet the students with a smile and words of wisdom every school day, according to Inside Edition. The parents have grown to appreciate him too.
“When I drove by I saw him and my heart burst,” Gina recalled. “He’s like an angel, you can’t help but feel calm and peace when you go near him,” she said. “There are kids in college who still remember how he greeted them.” Indeed, this is nothing new for Mr. Knuckles. In fact, he’s been standing outside the school each morning, bestowing goodwill on the students for over a decade, and he does it one fist bump at a time.
It all started over 15 years ago during a daily walk. Wally decided it was the perfect opportunity to teach kids some life lessons about “love and kindness” before they become “too cool” to listen. “If they can be kind and loving to people in life, they won’t have any trouble getting by,” he said.
School officials are grateful for what Wally does, too, and he even has his own wall now. “It takes one significant adult in a kid’s life and you can impact them forever, and Wally is that person with kids,” Cheryl Olson, the school superintendent, said. And, she’s right. When Wally interacts with the kids, it’s easy to forget an 80-year age difference even exists.
“Knowing what’s right doesn’t mean much — unless you do what’s right!” is just one of the many thoughtful things Wally Richardson tells students on their way to school. “Be kind whenever possible,” he advises them, too, as they excitedly respond by saying, “It’s always possible!” He’s not only full of “Wally-isms,” but he’s also got a few jokes too. However, parents say it’s his motivational messages that their kids look forward to the most in the morning. And, a motivation he is indeed — for both young and old.
Although his wife used to accompany him, she no longer walks so well, but Mr. Knuckles knew he couldn’t give up the tradition. “I want them to retain something that they can take on in life later on,” Wally Richardson said, according to CBS News, explaining why he continues to do what he does. And, there’s little doubt he’s succeeding in giving them that. A true serviceman at heart, he’ll help in any way he can until his dying day — and what better way to do that than to take time to cultivate a meaningful friendship with the children who will become the future of the nation he once served.