Advertisement

Greeter Offers Waves of Friendship : Neighbors: Chris Sepulveda has become an institution from his spot in downtown Moorpark. Illness hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It used to be that just about everybody who drove through Moorpark got a tip of the hat or a wave from Chris Sepulveda.

About eight years ago, the former infantry soldier and retired postal worker appointed himself the unofficial greeter of downtown Moorpark. Standing on the corner of Spring Road and 2nd Street each morning and afternoon, he’d give a friendly nod to the passersby--sometimes as many as 500 in an hour.

Those were the go-go years before California 118 was diverted away from downtown and an interchange was built on the east side of town. Traffic isn’t what it used to be, and neither is Sepulveda, who’s now 67.

“No, you don’t see too many cars come by anymore,” he said, tapping the artificial leg he got about a year ago after he lost his own to diabetes. “I guess I’m out here more for myself now.”

Advertisement

Sepulveda knows some people wonder what his gimmick is. But there is no gimmick. He just likes waving to people, and he likes it when they wave back.

About eight years ago, just after his wife died, he got bored and fed up with sitting on the couch at home and watching TV. He’d much rather sit on the chair he has locked to a fence post on the street corner and watch the world drive by.

“People tell me that I make their day, and I tell them that when they wave back, they make my day,” said Sepulveda, who has lived in Moorpark since 1935.

“He’s wonderful,” Anne Briggs said from behind the wheel of her Volvo station wagon, stopped at the corner. Her three young children nodded in agreement, while they waved to Sepulveda. “He’s there almost every morning and every night. We really miss him when he’s not around.”

Advertisement

In 1992, worsening diabetes sent him to the Veterans Hospital. Doctors had to amputate his right leg below the knee. He had almost lost his foot in World War II to frostbite while fighting with Gen. George S. Patton’s division in Belgium.

“I just lost my toes then, this time they got my whole foot and some of the leg too,” he said.

It was almost 18 months before he was able to walk to the street again and dispense his daily greetings. But he has a new spot now, closer to where he lives.

He sits at the corner of Roberts Avenue and Spring, which is half a block from the house he shares with one of his daughters.

Advertisement

Two lifelong friends bought him a folding chair to sit on. It’s permanently padlocked to a post next to a stop sign at the corner.

When Sepulveda went into the hospital, people missed him, Briggs said. She never knew Sepulveda’s name, but waved to him anyway.

During his absence, many townsfolk worried that he might have died or suffered a stroke, Briggs said.

“Well, I didn’t want to come out here with my wheelchair, it didn’t look so good, you know,” he said. “My gosh, they seemed to really miss me when I was gone, though.”

Advertisement

About six months ago, he toddled to his corner on a temporary prosthetic leg.

“It’s not too good, see,” he said, showing how the leg is a little too short and makes him uneasy on his feet. “The doctor said he was almost finished making another. I told him not to rush it, and just make sure it’s good enough for me to dance on. I like dancing.”

People still worry about him. They drop by and give him sodas or ice cream when the temperature climbs close to 100. Once he fell asleep and a worried driver stopped to make sure he was OK.

“She wouldn’t leave until she knew for sure that I was all right,” he said. “She wanted to call an ambulance, but I was just a little sleepy.”

Advertisement

He says now he’s back, doing what he does best. He has it down to a science--a gentle wave with a cupped hand, a slightly tilted head and open mouth smile.

He even throws in a wink now and again.

“I know him,” he says, waving to an elderly man riding in the passenger seat of a blue Lincoln Continental.

“Poor man. He’s crippled. He doesn’t get out much. I told his wife when I get my new leg, I’d take him out and push him around in his wheelchair,” he said.

Advertisement

“I know how that is sitting around the house. It can drive you crazy.”


Advertisement