BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Where is happiness found? If you talk to ten different people you may receive ten differnet answers. Vicki Baum once said, “There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them.” For many, dancing is not the first answer that came to the mind, but for Malcolm Wade, dancing not only leads to happiness, but it keeps him alive.
Malcolm Wade was born in Talihina, Oklahoma in 1921. Talihina is in what was Wade County in the Indian Territory days, a county that received its name because of Malcolm’s family. His great-grandfather, Alfred Wade, came to the new Choctaw Nation on the Trail of Tears in 1832. Alfred settled in the Wadeville community, a community that now bears his name. Malcolm grew up going to school in Talihina before graduating and attending Santa Fe Indian school, participating in several sports. He received an athletic scholarship for football at the University of New Mexico, but decided to return home to be married.
Shortly after being married, Malcolm volunteered for service with the Army in World War II. Through faithful service to the country, Malcolm earned many awards, three of which were the Meritorious Service Award, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart. After a fruitful career of service in the military, Malcolm returned to Talihina. “When I got back to Talihina, there wasn’t a lot going on and I wanted to help make change,” says Malcolm. In 1981 he ran for city council and was named Mayor, during this same time Malcolm was elected to the 12 member Choctaw Tribal Council to represent South Leflore County. He followed to serve in the same position as three generations of men in his family before him. Though Malcolm met many real needs for the Choctaw Nation, he feels that he has one greater accomplishment. “I felt that we needed a Choctaw Community Center in Talihina so I went through the efforts to bring it there.”
Although Oklahoma has been home for Malcom for most of his life, the last decade of his life has been spent in Mena. It is quite impressive for anyone to lay down roots somewhere for ten years, but especially impressive when Malcolm is 96 years old. Talking to Malcolm, nobody would ever assume that he is in his ninety’s, rather, one might think he is twenty years younger! People who have lived a longer life always have a ‘secret’ to their long and healthy life. Malcolm’s secret is dancing. His dancing is not just exercise, it is a hobby that Malcolm finds a lot of joy in doing. “I love dancing. If I stopped dancing and stopped moving, life wouldn’t be fun anymore.”
Malcolm regularly dances at the Mena Senior Center, he spends each day at the center, playing dominoes, serving, and dancing. He has become quite the show for the regulars at the center, always putting a smile on faces of those around him. Malcolm has been dancing regularly for almost 40 years and he has become quite good. “I can do a lot of things that people dancing my age can’t do, but even people that are young can’t do,” says Malcolm with a smile. In addition to dancing at the senior center and the Elks locally, he has travelled to Talihina to square dance as well. Although these are impressive, Malcom’s most impressive dancing feat may be that he drives to Arkadelphia once a week to dance with friends.
Malcolm loves being active, whether that is working outside, dancing, or volunteering at the senior center. “I know people think I’m crazy, but I can’t stop doing things. If I stop and I just sit around, life won’t mean much anymore.” He still moves and works like a man decades younger, never wanting to sit and be idle. “I love helping here at the center. We have a lot of good people, but they can’t do it all on their own. If me and other people stop volunteering, we couldn’t have all these things.” Malcolm, like many of the other great men from the World War II era, have served and given their time without ever expecting a thank you or notice. There is certainly something unique about the men from that generation, it makes sense why they have been called the greatest generation of men. “I never know why people say that. We were just doing our jobs then and I feel like I’m doing what needs to be done now.”
Although Malcolm may be older than most on the dance floor, he believes that his age is just a number. “Dancing is what keeps me alive, as long as I’m still moving, I want to be dancing.” Malcolm is an example to all that the little things in life can often bring us the most joy.