The Amber Lantern Restaurant looked almost abandoned from the street.
The words “Top Rack Marina” adorned its storefront in bold letters, the parking lot seemingly desolate except for the many boats, and, at first, you might not have even known that an event was being held in the building.
A small sign pointed attendees around a corner through a lobby, then upstairs.
And once you arrived, after a montage of pointing arrows, you knew.
A celebration was definitely afoot.
Samuel Phillip Hines, as he self-described, turned 90 years young Saturday, and friends, family, and clergy had come in his honor.
The attendees were ready to party.
They had come, gift-laden, faces smiling, some young, some old, in the bright, spring breeze of the midday to celebrate the monumental achievements of Dr. Hines during his tenure at Old Dominion University and in life.
They also reminisced about his work. His commitment to education.
“He actually misses grading papers,” said daughter Troy Hines, who kept her father’s last name so that he would have someone to carry on his name in the absence of a son.
To the church for which he has been a benefactor for more than two decades years.
To his family, two daughters, whom he spoke of with equal admiration, and, not least, his wife of more than 25 years.
In DJ Snake’s now infamous party track, rapper Lil Jon, amid ferocious bass and instrumentals, asks his energized listeners, “Turn down for what?”
The sentiment, the only in the song, appeals to the masses in this day and time when the idea of stopping is an option only for the deceased.
To this, Dr. Hines might reply, “that dichotomy is not very appropriate.”
Just a decade shy of his centennial, Dr. Hines, who retired from ODU in 1992, is showing no signs of mental age. He processes words and undertones quickly, responds with precision and a smooth smile, then patiently awaits the next question.
To him, 90 means “I’ve been here a really short time, I think.”
“I’ve got a lot of free time, said Hines, “that is always filled up.”
He still stokes his literary embers.
“I don’t know what the world, what time, brings, but I’ve got more to do,” said Dr. Hines. “I’ve got something that is an accumulation of very old letters that were sent out in England from a fairly official place and I have edited all those.”
But he also spends much of his time doing what makes him happy and keeps him spiritually young.
His shares dinner with fellow colleagues at Tony’s Diner each week where they converse in Greek.
“I read,” he said. “Newspapers, magazines, and have right much activity socially.”
Of the publication he will continue to pursue, he said, “I haven’t gotten them published yet. I’ve not put them off. I’ve just been busy retiring.”
By the afternoon’s end, the celebration has ended. Most have departed and only his two daughters, Troy and Julie, wife, and a few lingering buddies are left as Dr. Hines waxes philosophical about the plight of education and the future of our nation.
The celebration is over. But the professor is in full motion. As the tape recorder for his interview is turned off, he leans back in his chair and says to the tickled reporter, “Ok. Now, let me ask you some questions.”
Turn down? For what?