94-year-old man makes a dif­fer­ent kind of Star­bucks run

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By claire osborn

GE­ORGE­TOWN — Ev­ery day, 94-year-old Jolly Harkins ar­rives in his sa­fari hat at the two Star­bucks cof­fee lo­ca­tions in Ge­orge­town to gather their leftover cof­fee grounds.

The World War II vet­eran then too­dles along in a small white pickup to one of his sons’ farms 33 miles away in Ber­tram. There, he mixes the grounds with horse ma­nure, ta­ble scraps, wa­ter and leaves to make a com­post that he spreads on his son’s pome­gran­ate trees and veg­etable gar­den.

The cof­fee grounds help add acid­ity to the soil, he said. He also feeds the grounds to the worms he raises sep­a­rately in a box for the fer­til­izer they pro­duce. “They love Star­bucks,” Harkins said. Harkins is the only per­son who comes by the Star­bucks lo­ca­tions in Ge­orge­town to gather cof­fee grounds on a daily ba­sis, said Ryan Reynolds, man­ager of the Star­bucks on Uni­ver­sity Boule­vard. Three or four other peo­ple gather the grounds on a weekly ba­sis, Reynolds said. The Star­bucks staff gives Harkins about 20 pounds of grounds daily that they put in plas­tic bags.

“He even comes in the rain,” said Tif­fany Ter­wil­le­gar, an as­sis­tant man­ager at the Star­bucks on Austin Av­enue. “Ev­ery­one wor­ries if he’s not here and won­ders if he’s sick.”

One morn­ing last week, Harkins stepped out of his pickup at his son’s farm and walked to the 40-foot-long, 4-foot-high com­post heap he has built. He threw the bags of cof­fee grounds down be­side it and then picked up a 3-foot-long ther­mome­ter and stuck it into the heap.

The tem­per­a­ture was 120 de­grees, he said; it needed to be 140 de­grees to help bac­te­ria break down the com­post so it could be used as fer­til­izer. To get there, the com­post needed to be re­worked.

He then am­bled over to the large rec­tan­gu­lar raised wooden box where he raises his cof­fee-ground-eat­ing worms and pried open the lid to see whether the worms needed more food.

“This is te­dious, so you have to be pa­tient. I’m gonna get it done, but it’s kind of like the pres­i­dent. … He’s get­ting it done but not fast enough,” Harkins said, laugh­ing.

Harkins started pick­ing up the cof­fee grounds about four years ago when he found out they were free, he said. It gives him a rea­son to make the daily jour­ney to his son’s farm.

Harkins said his son Barton, a Union Pa­cific rail­road con­duc­tor, al­ways has had dif­fer­ent projects for him, such as plant­ing pecan and ap­ple trees, cut­ting hay and putting in a pipe­line for ir­ri­ga­tion.

“He gets out and keeps mov­ing, and that’s the key to stay­ing healthy,” Barton Harkins said. “He’s able to help me out with some things, like wa­ter­ing and mak­ing com­post.”

Jolly Harkins said he was born in Ber- tram, so the vis­its bring back mem­o­ries for him. “I like farm­ing,” he said.

Harkins said he was named af­ter a Civil War hero who helped his grand­fa­ther, a Con­fed­er­ate sol­dier, re­cover from a hos­pi­tal stay by giv­ing him the eas­ier job of gath­er­ing food from lo­cal farms in­stead of dig­ging trenches.

Raised in Austin, his first job at age 10 was sell­ing news­pa­pers for 5 cents apiece from his fa­ther’s used-car busi­ness down­town, he said. He joined the Na­tional Guard in 1933 — a year be­fore grad­u­at­ing from Austin High School. Harkins said he wanted to go to the Uni­ver­sity of Texas but couldn’t af­ford the $25 reg­is­tra­tion fee.

Af­ter high school, he built sound stages for Warner Bros. in Santa Mon­ica, Calif., and later be­came a postal clerk and a whole­sale gaso­line seller in the West Texas town of San­der­son.

He went into ac­tive ser­vice in the Army in 1941 and served in Europe as the com­man­der of a postal unit dur­ing World War II, he said.

In 1942, Harkins mar­ried Dell Barton, whom he met through a cousin. He later served in the Korean War and then re­turned to sell­ing gaso­line and bu­tane and work­ing at the post of­fice in San­der­son un­til he re­tired in 1977, he said.

Af­ter that, he sold auto parts in Hous­ton, when Barton Harkins had a busi­ness there, and also got a real es­tate li­cense, Jolly Harkins said. But mostly he’s worked on the farm, he said.

When he re­turned to his Ge­orge­town home last week af­ter his daily trip to the farm, his wife said she wor­ried a lit­tle about his vis­its.

“He’s get­ting a lit­tle old to be go­ing out there,” she said.

But Jolly Harkins said he knows how to take care of him­self.

“I drive 40 miles an hour,” he said, smil­ing. “Be­cause when you’re 94 and you get stopped by a cop, it’s al­ways your fault.”

al­berto martínez AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Jolly Harkins, 9 , picks up leftover cof­fee grounds ev­ery day at two Star­bucks lo­ca­tions in Ge­orge­town and uses them in a com­post at his son’s farm in Ber­tram, miles away.


Tif­fany Ter­wil­le­gar, left, an as­sis­tant man­ager at Star­bucks, says work­ers worry if Jolly Harkins doesn’t show up. See more pho­tos with this story at states­man. com.

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