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A FINE MESS: He’s 96, alone and at the bottom of a ravine

Moments after Lyman “Jay” Gage left the GVR Canoa Hills Center for home Dec. 20, he found himself on the floorboard of his golf cart at the bottom of a ditch.

He’d passed out behind the wheel and the vehicle bounced 40 feet down a ravine just south of the social center parking lot.

Gage, who’s 96, says tacking on an extra round of Bocce ball had pushed him to his limit.

Calling for help wasn’t an option. He’d left his cell phone and urgent response clicker at his home about a quarter-mile away.

His cane was jolted from the vehicle from the impact, so walking up the 45-degree hill wasn’t going to happen. Instead, he hoisted himself out of the cart, flopped onto his left hip and spent an hour inching up the hill.

“I just made up my mind that I had to get out because nobody was going to find me,” he says. “And I was out of energy already, so the fact that I made it is a miracle.”

Gage says the incident was one of seven times he has lost consciousness during his nearly 10 decades. When life becomes overwhelming, his body simply shuts down, he says.

Gage made it to the road and flagged down a driver leaving the parking lot. Green Valley Fire District responded and he was taken to a hospital.

Considering Gage had the wherewithal to regroup and could crawl to safety is noteworthy, said his niece Linda Swanson, who has lived with him for three years. Maybe the moral of the story is to not leave home without your phone, she said rhetorically.

Gage’s neighbor Kim Moss was the GVR Center Operations Assistant on duty that day. When GVFD was called, Moss was alerted and sent to Canoa Hills.

Moss became friends with Gage through HOA outings and events they regularly attend. While she wasn’t overly concerned about Gage being injured, she realized he was disoriented and went to the hospital with him. Then she drove to his house to grab his cell phone, calling Swanson to tell her what happened.

“It was quite the adventure for both of us,” Moss says.

A few days after the incident, an HOA email circulated and labeled Moss a hero. She balked at the label and said she did what anyone one else would have done for their neighbor.

“I felt like I was at the right place at the right time,” she says. “I’m just grateful that I was there and knew him.”

The next day, Gage was back at the courts bright and early, sense of humor intact.

“My Bocce ball buddy said I was trying to take a shortcut home,” Gage says with a laugh.

Gage moved from Anchorage about four years ago and took up Bocce ball in lieu of bowling. He became a GVR Bocce Club member right away.

Four days a week, Gage packs his dance card with Bocce ball, bridge and duplicate bridge.

He sold his van in September even though he was only driving 300 miles a year. He realized it was too risky to operate the vehicle, but knew it was important to stay mobile.

The person who bought his van put him in contact with a friend who was selling a golf cart. He bought it on the spot.

Before last week, Gage hadn’t had any accidents with his new wheels.

Although it will cost about $1,000 to repair the cart, it’s in his best interest to get it done, Swanson said.

She says her uncle has a motto that keeps him spry: “You have to keep going to keep going.” And having his own wheels keeps his engine humming.

“Even though I worry about him, I’d never take that away from him,” Swanson says. “It’s part of the reason why he remains active within his world. And he’s quite capable of making his own decisions.”