Celebrating Centenarians

Last week, Lawrence Brooks, the oldest living World War II veteran died at the age of 112. Centenarians seem to be everywhere these days—or do I notice them because I am sensitized to reports of those who served our country during the War?

Like, 108 year old Warren Bussey. Born in 1913, he enlisted in the Army when eligible and served in a segregated group, training riflemen. He suffered through hard times, but is said to always have had a positive attitude: “When you wake up, we all have the same thing–we have a chance and a choice … to do something. You have the same 24 hours. You just have to make it happen.” Apparently longevity runs in his family, his mother lived to 106 and a sister to 102. But his secret, he claims, is hard work and soul food.

The Stars and Stripes which brought attention to Mr. Bussey also reported on 101 year old George Ellers. Still proud to have served his country (manning the machine guns with the Coast Guard aboard the USCGC Spencer) he insists on standing for the national anthem when it plays on his television set before football games—even if he needs assistance to rise from his chair. He shrugs when asked about his longevity and adds, “”I haven’t had a cigarette, or a drop of alcohol in 40, maybe 45 years.”

And then there’s 103 year old Eleanor Frye, former lieutenant in the Navy’s WAVES—someone I profiled in my book, The Other Veterans of World War II, and whom I have come to call a friend. During the War, although she protests she did nothing special, she helped assemble convoys of merchant marine ships carrying supplies to the troops in Europe. Ms. Frye is as baffled as anyone about her longevity, but I’d say, she owes it to her very active lifestyle. Even today, she oversees her large mountain top garden, devours books—with a preference for biographies—and never misses the financial news. 

I don’t know who holds the honor of oldest living World War II veteran today, but I wish them well. The same goes for anyone who reaches the century mark and keeps on going. 

The Stars and Stripes, 12/28/21
Roxana Kopetman, The Orange County Register 12/28/21
Mike Klingaman, The Baltimore Sun, 12/29/21

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