CORVALLIS — Sandy McCulloch is searching for a wife, and he’s not kidding.
The sign around his neck, printed on paper and fastened by string and paper clamps, explains:
“Wanted: a wife.”
That’s in computer-printed, bold, capital letters. Additional handwritten details describe his requirements: She must be over the age of 60, love books, have a sense of humor and live in Corvallis.
At age 82, McCulloch said, it’s not easy to find someone to bring into his life.
“People look for a wife for different reasons when they are 20 or 25 than when they are my age,” he said. “I’m looking for companionship.”
Having acquired three ex-wives by the time he was 39, he learned volumes in the first half of his life about what not to do in a relationship. He was an emotional cripple decades ago, he said, but he has since cleaned up his act.
The inspiration for his sign came last month from a white-haired volunteer greeter at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
As McCulloch waited in the main entrance lobby to take a coffee break with one of the hospital’s ministers, a friend of his, the greeter asked if he needed help. He responded no, but she checked in with him two more times as he waited.
Finally, he replied in the affirmative.
“There is one piece of assistance you can give me,” he recalled saying. “I need a wife.”
Although he was speaking in jest, she took a moment to consider the matter seriously. She responded that there were many single women that worked at the hospital and that he should wear a sign on his chest indicating that he’s looking.
He didn’t take the suggestion seriously until the following week when, once again, he was waiting in the hospital lobby for a friend. He ran the idea by a different volunteer greeter, who encouraged him to go for it.
You wouldn’t run a classified ad for a pet in an auto mechanic publication. Similarly, McCulloch doesn’t stroll around just anywhere with the sign dangling from his neck. He wears it occasionally and only in specific places.
He first mustered up the courage to put himself out there last week at the Old World Deli in downtown Corvallis. An event featuring live music and crafts for sale caused the restaurant to be more crowded than usual.
Wearing a worn baseball cap that said “No Hats” and the advertisement on his chest, McCulloch leaned back on a chair facing passersby.
Men reacted with smiles and thumbs-up gestures, some asked to take his photo and a few women offered to help with his venture. His sign led to a conversation with one woman that lasted the better part of an hour. Though she was too young to be a potential wife, they developed a warm friendship, and she agreed to meet him for lunch and help him find some candidates.
“The response was rather amazing and delightful,” he said. “It’s the closest I’ve ever come to being a rock star in a room full of people.”
The local writer sells his published collections of nonfiction short stories at the Old World Deli during the noon hour on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Locals may spot McCulloch, who appears closer to age 70 than 80, dressed in khaki pants, a red scarf, his ironic baseball cap and a sign indicating his earnest request for a companion.
McCulloch plans to sport his attention-grabbing sign in the hospital lobby, the Corvallis library and, perhaps, the Starbucks coffee shop. He walks fine on his own, he said, but his balance isn’t what it used to be, so when he makes his rounds, he is usually assisted by a walker.
To learn the essence of who McCulloch is, he says you should read three or four of his books and visit his residence at Benton Plaza. The low-income senior apartment doubles as his personal art gallery. His travels through the Mediterranean and what he considers the greatest city in the world, Istanbul, are documented through Persian, Turkish and Arab artifacts, some dating back 800 years.
With a Master of Science degree in zoology, he taught biology in private colleges for about a decade. Although he has no formal training in psychology, he spent another decade leading support groups from his home for couples who were considering divorce. He then became an innkeeper after he built a house and rental units on ocean-view property near Encino, Calif.
In this chapter of his life, he is a writer with a modest, fixed income that he supplements with book sales.
McCulloch chuckles when he considers the number of responses this publicity may bring.
“I’m not greedy, I just need one wife!” he said. “In all honesty, I don’t know if this will lead to anything. If nothing else, it has been a lot of fun.”