Carter & Charlotte: Taking steps together

While training for the World Masters Track & Field Championships four years ago, Carter Holmes, 62, had a massive heart attack, then a stroke. He walks now, largely thanks to 11-year-old Charlotte DeVaughn.

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Charlotte De Vaughn, 11, checked to make sure the way was clear in a hallway at Southwest High School for her friend, Carter Holmes, 62, as the pair attended a girls basketball game along with Charlotte's father.

Photo: JIM GEHRZ, Star Tribune

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Carter Holmes loved to run. He ran track in high school and was on the University of Minnesota's Big 10 cross-country championship team in 1969.

For 35 years, Carter ran across courts as a high school and college-level sports official.

Four years ago, while training for the World Masters Track & Field Championships, he had a massive heart attack, then a stroke.

He walks now, slowly and deliberately, largely thanks to a very special neighbor.

"I could set my watch by when she'd be over," says Carter, 62, of 11-year-old Charlotte DeVaughn, who lives a block away in south Minneapolis.

For three years, Charlotte and Carter have walked around the block together after school. Their stroll takes up to 45 minutes, but they never feel rushed.

"At first when we would go around, it wouldn't be quite fast," says Charlotte, who gets a few dollars a week from Carter or his brother Tom.

"Then it got quicker and quicker." Charlotte's mom, Michelle, has a theory about why that's true. "They're both good talkers."

After they walk, Carter stands at his door while Charlotte does a twirl around his clothesline post. It's their way of saying goodbye.

In cold weather, they walk indoors or find other ways to be buddies. Carter attends Charlotte's basketball games, where she plays on a team coached by her dad, Mike. "She does a bounce pass real good," Carter says.

"She spots the open players. Most people that age don't do that."

He's watched her compete in track, too (Charlotte placed second in long jump at the 2011 Minnesota State Junior Olympic meet), and enjoyed her school musical.

"She would dance, but she didn't do the watusi," Carter says. Charlotte, a sixth-grader at Anthony Middle School, doesn't know what that means, but it makes her laugh.

They also attend the games of her brother Nathan, 18, a senior at Southwest High, and her sister Audrey, 16, an 11th-grader at Washburn High.

Carter uses Metro Mobility to get around. On Tuesdays, his brother visits him.

But without Charlotte, Carter says, he would have been far less eager to get back on his feet. "I might have fallen."

Last year, when Charlotte was to be named Student of the Month at Kenny School, Carter secretly secured an additional community service award for her. "She had done a good job ..." Carter says. "She did it. No questions asked."

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