New Stanton octogenarian's outlook is bright as a penny
Eugene R. Proctor, a cheerful, 84-year-old Army veteran, is a bit like Santa Claus himself.
He lives in a snow-covered home atop a steep hill best accessible by four-wheel drive, or perhaps reindeer. His bedroom has a workshop where he crafts special gifts every day. And his jolly spirit of giving is unmatched.
In the past six years, the New Stanton man has handed out tens of thousands of shiny copper pennies. “The Lucky Penny Man,” as he's known, passes out between 50 and 100 each day to doctors, waitresses, any stranger-become-friend.
“Wherever I go,” he said. “All the doctors and pharmacists and everybody.”
Every morning, he fills his pockets with that day's worth of shiny pennies. He hands them out with a standing joke: “Get lucky.”
“They laugh, every one of them. They all bust out laughing,” he said. “And the kids — they're so happy when I give them pennies.”
Proctor said he started the tradition in 2008 because “it made the kids happy.” Since then, it's grown because “we all can use” some luck, he said.
A coin collector, Proctor buys the penny rolls from a flea market in Adamsburg, always searching for the newest coins available. He encases each in a cardboard square and stamps it with the year and this message: “Your lucky penny from Eugene Proctor. Get lucky.”
Some people keep the pennies as good luck charms; others credit the coins with a stroke of good fortune, such as a winning lottery ticket. Some of the pennies have crossed oceans, even making their way to troops in Afghanistan to wish them safekeeping.
Proctor himself is no stranger to luck.
He served during World War II and twice survived harrowing moments.
While sailing near the Aleutian Islands, Proctor was able to grab a cable wire, saving himself from sliding off the slippery boat and into the frigid water, the fate of a fellow soldier.
Later, Proctor recalls, he was among 5,000 soldiers on a ship that faced a 100-foot tidal wave near Japan. The water tore a hole in the ship's shell. By chance, shifting cargo righted the ship and all aboard survived.
“Just by luck we got into the port,” he said. “That's another reason why I give out the pennies — I'm lucky.”
His daughter, Barb Savasta, said Proctor seems to win every raffle or contest he enters. Outgoing and gregarious, he's always ready to spread his good cheer to others.
“He's like the jolly Santa Claus,” she said. “It's all year-round for him. It makes him feel good, and it makes the people feel good.”
During 63 years of marriage, Proctor and his late wife, Mildred “Millie,” raised six children, and enjoyed a few dozen grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When Mildred was buried this year, Proctor placed lucky pennies in her coffin.
“He's good-hearted. He's a giver. There's givers and takers in life, and Dad's a giver,” Savasta said. “It gives him happiness. They say it's better to give than receive.”
Rossilynne Skena Culgan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.