• Last modified 361 days ago (July 20, 2023)


Their topic? Maybe this story

Staff writer

A men’s coffee group at Wendy’s in Hillsboro is one part comedy hour, one part therapy hour, and one part political hour — with requisite weather and farm talk thrown in for good measure.

Technically, three groups meet there in the mornings. The coffee klatches are organized by age, which ranges from 70ish to 100. After they’ve ordered coffee and food, members gather at various tables for camaraderie and community.

“We usually talk about things that aren’t true,” Alvin Hett, 75, says, joking.

The get-togethers are but one of many across the county. Other groups meet, for example, at Pop’s Diner in Peabody, and Lanning Pharmacy in Marion.

Men’s coffee hours are a quintessential rite of retirement. Walk into any café or fast-food joint in the morning in most small towns, and you’ll likely find a group shooting the breeze.

The Wendy’s group is mostly conservative politically, but there are a couple Democrats.

Hett joined the group about two years ago, usually ordering a sausage biscuit, vanilla Pepsi (he drinks two or three every time, his friends tease), and ice cream.
What brings him out to Wendy’s most mornings?

“The orneriness,” he says.

It was on full display Friday.

Asked what they were talking about before a reporter joined them, the men looked at each other and then took the Fifth.

Most of them retired from farming. On Friday, 99% of them wore farm-related caps.

Gordon Dalke, 84, says he’s been coming to the group “forever.”

“There’s a lot of good talk,” he says.

“We could go hire a psychologist, but this takes care of that,” Gary Wiens, 81, chimes in.

He has been drinking coffee with his cronies for “probably forever,” he says.

Gary Jost, 84, attends once or twice a week. His wife of 61 years, he says, “allows me to come.”

Most of the men are married. A few, such as Bob Delk, who will be 101 next month, have lost wives over the years. Don’t worry. Delk, his friends say, receives a lot of female attention across the county — so much so that he has a standing invitation at a Wednesday women’s group at Rhubarb Market.

Marvin Ratzlaff appears to be the chief joker of one of the groups, drawing out laughs with a deadpan sense of humor.

He considers when he joined the group.

Was it four years ago? Five?

He’s not sure.

“My memory is usually behind me,” the 91-year-old says.

Lynford Becker, 93, makes it as often as he can and has been for about six years.

“I like listening to what’s going on in our lives,” Becker says.

At another table, Delk, “Moose” Meirowsky, and Steve Hanneman catch up.

“I’m a foreigner,” Meirowsky says.

He typically attends a coffee/breakfast group at Pop’s Diner but drove to Hillsboro while the Peabody café was closed for about two weeks.

The groups have met in the past at a Co-op, the former Iron Kettle, and McDonald’s.

“We have too much fun,” Hanneman says.

Is there a leader?

“No, we’re all just followers,” Delk says, eliciting some darn-close-to-giggling from his friends.

“Nobody leaves this group grumpy,” Wiens says. “We’re all smiling.”

Last modified July 20, 2023