Route 16 waver Feels the Love with new heat pump
Richard Gross describes himself as a happy-go-lucky person, but he cried when he learned he was going to Feel the Love with a new heat pump installed by Premier HVAC Services.
Gross is a familiar sight to everyone traveling on Pa. 16 between Greencastle and Upton as he waves to passing vehicles from the porch of the mobile home he shares with his husband, Greg Hardsock.
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He can be found on the porch with his eager beagle-Jack Russell mixes Love Bug and Maggie from daybreak to dark.
Lately, he’s been getting up before dawn because the furnace would switch from hot air to cold at 4 a.m. He’d have to turn it off and let it sit for half an hour before it would start blowing heat again. An estimate to replace it came in at $8,600.
“How can people afford this on a fixed income?” Gross asked on Facebook.
He’s on disability due to debilitating nerve pain from tearing the inner wall of his chest and also suffers from diabetic neuropathy. He and his husband cared for Hardsock’s mother, Betty Hardsock, until she passed away in June. Hardsock now works at Martin’s in Greencastle.
Tim Stenger, owner of Premier HVAC Services, saw Gross’ post, knew he was right for the Feel the Love program and privately messaged him.
On Wednesday, Oct. 9, a heat pump was installed outside and the existing heating unit inside was cleaned and refurbished as a backup through Feel the Love, a program the equipment manufacturer Lennox offers its dealers.
Lennox supplies the new heating and cooling system and the dealer volunteers for the installation. Lennox started the program — with installations done annually the second week of October — in 2009, and Premier has participated for four or five years, Stenger said.
“This is exactly what the program is for,” Stenger said, “people in need in the community who have fallen on hard times.”
Why does Richard Gross wave to people on Pa. 16?
“He’s waving and putting smiles on people’s faces,” Stenger said, adding parents say their kids look forward to seeing Gross and waving back.
He actually started waving to people — their 10 or so neighbors — when and his husband lived outside of Mercersburg on Blue Spring Road and didn’t go anywhere because they were taking care of Hardsock’s mother.
The 4,000-square-foot house was too much for them, and Gross felt drawn to the three-bedroom mobile home in the 4000 block of Buchanan Trail West, which at the time had weeds running rampant and 20 overgrown trees, some coming up through the deck.
“Every time we drove by, I said, ‘I want that place,’” Gross said.
They sold their big house and moved to their current home in February 2020, and it wasn’t long before he was on the porch waving. The first time he counted, about 100 people waved back, then it rose to 200.
One waver is a girl Gross calls “Miss Daisy” because she waves from the back seat with the window down, reminding him of the movie “Driving Miss Daisy.” After her mother mentioned Gross on Facebook, his fan base skyrocketed and he’s up to about 500 waves a day.
Gross also gets the finger about once a day, and he was especially saddened when a little boy gave him the double bird.
Other drivers beep, one trucker’s horn sounds a different tune every time it goes by and people have taken to stopping by and giving him things like lunch, farm fresh eggs and cake. He’s tickled with a new Dunkin’ Donuts mug a woman gave him, because his old one was somewhat worse for wear from falling off the porch railing.
“Just by waving you can make someone’s day,” Gross said. “A wave today can bring a better tomorrow.”
Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org