John Sevier resident hasn't let losing some toes keep him off his feet

Jonathan Roberts • Sep 22, 2019 at 8:07 PM

With the birth of his granddaughter, Tom Rule knew it was time to leave the coastal city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, that he had called home for the first 55 years of his life.

Now in his mid-60s, Rule finds himself living in the John Sevier Center, the towering, 10-story building that the Johnson City Development Authority is looking to revitalize by introducing retail and office space, and relocating the buildings low-income residents.

Rule, however, feels the change will be a positive one — though that might just be because he's overcome so much that one more move isn’t a big deal for him. After moving to Johnson City earlier in the decade, Rule developed a gangrene infection, something that made him question his move entirely.

“I keep laughing — I didn’t laugh about it then — but I guess living near the ocean all those years must’ve kept me healthy because I wasn’t down here more than two years and I got gangrene,” said Rule, who lost part of his thigh and several toes to the infection.

Today, Rule is doing what he can to stay active. Six months ago, Rule got himself a dog — an energetic 10-month-old puppy he named Fox because of his striking resemblance to the American red foxes Rule grew up with on the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.

“I went and got a dog recently, because I don’t have a lot of friends down here,” Rule said, adding that Fox also does a lot to keep him up and active.

“He’s only 10 months old, so he’s keeping me well on my toes,” he said. “I just try to keep occupied as much as possible, we take walks at night now that I have someone to walk with me — it helps me get a little more mobile.”

As much as he loves his four-legged companion, his biggest motivation is his family.

Rule’s son, daughter-in-law and grandkids are some of his only family, with only his sister and a handful of cousins still residing in the Northeast. And since he now lives so near to his child and grandchildren, he’s determined to make sure they’re able to experience the same tight-knit family dynamic he grew up with.

“Family is very important to me,” he said. “(My) generation was very different from nowadays, we were real close family growing up and we always had big Christmas times and Thanksgivings.”

For many, family can be a source of motivation for positive life changes, and Rule is no different. Rule says his family — and a desire to spend his money “better” — are what drove the “ex-alcoholic” to give up alcohol and smoking.

“I decided it was more important to see my grandkids than have a bottle of booze,” he said.

And, as his grandkids get older, Rule has one more thing he wants to experience: Being a great-grandfather.

“I might even live long enough to see my great-grandson,” Rule said. “That would be something.”

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