Tom Trout: The Man, The Sign | People

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Tom Trout: The Man, The Sign
People, Style, Weird
Tom Trout: The Man, The Sign

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- If Interstate 95 is the artery that feeds Jacksonville, then at the Bowden exit Tom Trout has added some heart.

"I kinda snoop around the office every now and then," the 84-year-old retired business owner said.

Once a week he makes a trip to the office his son now operates. "I'm just letting my presence be felt," he said.

He does still have a job though.

Once a week, it's his responsibility to come up with a new phrase for the sign that towers over the building and is seen by thousands each day from the interstate.

"I'm up to 1,615 sayings I think," Trout said.

He keeps a notebook of catchy phrases that have been collected since he put the sign up back in 1983. "My motivation each day is trying to change someone's life for the better."

Past sayings include:

  • "If you want to leave footprints in the sands of time, wear work shoes."
  • "Middle Age: When you choose your cereal for the fiber, not the toys."
  • "This is the first day of the rest of your life, make it a masterpiece."

And on Wednesday, he was in the office to watch them put up his latest:

"You are what you think about all day. Think positive."

That's what you'll be reading for the next week if you drive I-95 north to downtown Jacksonville.

"I just think it's wonderful," said his receptionist at Tom Trout Inc. "I have people call here all the time. I even had a lady come in here crying, saying the billboard saved her life."

Trout has hundreds of letters he's collected over the years. They're come from all over the country.

And they all tell a story, thanking Tom for bringing some happiness to the daily drive.

"If it does that, then it has accomplished my mission," he said.

MORE: History and past messages 

MORE: Turner Loose blog

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