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AARP The Magazine

Meet the Winners of AARP's 50+ Model Search

From 51 to 91: Learn how they keep young at heart

The New Faces of 50+, our winners of our

"There's not one day that goes by that I don't hug my wife and give her a kiss and tell her I love her," says Richard Bucci. — Ari Michelson

50+ Winner

Richard Bucci, 54

Home: Graham, N.C.

Lifeline: My wife, Stacy

Words to Live by: It's not the number of things we acquire, but how many lives we touch along the way.

For 28 years I've had just about the best job any man could have — firefighting. I've worked in Florida, North Carolina and, earlier, with our extraordinary military in Iraq.

I wrote about my experience in 2004 with the Mosul bombing in Iraq (80 percent of the proceeds from the book go to support our soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder). I've faced extreme conditions. I've witnessed heroism at close range.

I've seen birth — I helped deliver a baby — and I've seen death. And as I approached 50, I had to think about my own: I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. My doctor told me that if it hadn't been caught early, I would have been looking at a terminal case 10 years later.

I think everyone expected me to retire from firefighting at that point, particularly since, right after the prostate surgery, I faced surgery for a separated shoulder (from fighting a structure fire) and a total hip replacement. Instead, I decided to get back into firefighting condition, which involved seven months of physical therapy and training, at least two hours a day, four days a week.

Life Reimagined will help you see your goals from a new perspective

Today, at 54, I'm still doing the job I love most — the other guys call me Grandpa. And at the end of the day, I return to the love of my life, Stacy. We met after the prostate surgery, and after my 50th birthday. We'd both been married twice before; the theme for our wedding was "Three time's the charm."

When you've seen as much death and suffering as I have, just the fact of being here, when so many others you've known and loved are not, gives every day new meaning.

There's not one day that goes by that I don't hug my wife and give her a kiss and tell her I love her. Not one day. My son Kyle, who's 21, too. I've been blessed to be of service, and I know I'm still here because God has a plan for me. He has one for all of us.

Next page: A poised painter. »

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