Around 6 a.m., James L. Bass Jr. microwaves a frozen sausage and biscuit, a simple but significant task.
Bass didn’t learn how to make his own breakfast until 2014, when his wife of 62 years, Erma, died.
And Bass needs breakfast because, at 97, he still goes to work most weekdays — in a suit and tie — at the law office he opened in Carthage, Tennessee, 70 years ago.
“I grew up working, and I have no desire to retire,” he said, with a gentle twang and a little rasp in his voice. “When night comes, I know I put a day’s work in, and I can sleep well.”
His two children live nearby, and they support their father working, believing that the job gives him purpose and focus after his wife died. His children believe the job keeps Bass mentally focused, staving off depression or dementia.
“I want him to work,” said his daughter, Jane Bass Turner, 56, a nurse practitioner.
“I want him to die exactly where he has been happy, and that’s at work behind his desk.”
Bass’ son, David, 60, who joined his father’s law office 35 years ago, does most of the legal heavy lifting. But the elder Bass still handles property title searches, deeds and estates.
Bass also spends much of the week greeting old clients and community leaders who stop by the Main Street office across from the county courthouse.
And, leaning on a thick wooden walking stick his mother-in-law used to use, Bass goes to events now and then.
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