With Veterans Day upon us, CalVet pays tribute to the 23 enduring and endearing veterans and other residents whose ages require triple digits, and who live in our Veterans Homes of California throughout the state.
U.S. Army veteran Warren Moose joined that very exclusive group on November 1, turning 100 years old to great fanfare at the Veterans Homes of California-West Los Angeles. In doing so he became the newest – and youngest – member of CalVet’s unofficial Centenarian Club.
No annual dues required: They’ve already paid them by serving the nation and defending the United States Constitution, most during World War II and some who fought in Korea as well, or a spouse did.
Only Lancaster among the eight homes doesn’t house a member of this club. West LA boasts eight, Redding four, Yountville four, Fresno three and Chula Vista two, while Barstow and Ventura each have one.
The oldest veteran resident? Army veteran Luca DeBellis at the West LA Home, who will turn 104 come January 28.
It is, indeed, an exclusive club, with each veteran possessing a recipe for longevity.
“Keep active, have a purpose, and see what the next 100 years has in store,” said Moose, a World War II Army medic in Europe with the 7th Corps under the famed Major General “Lightning” Joe Collins.
Back home after his hitch ended, Moose joined the North Fresno Lions Club and became a lifetime member of that organization, serving as its president and vice-chair at times before checking into the West LA Home in 2014. He continues his dedication to duty at the Home, where he presides over the veterans’ Allied Council and plans to remain active as a floor delegate when his term ends.
“It keeps me going,” Moose said,
Another prescription for a long and healthy life comes from Yountville Home veteran Ralph Gay, who celebrated his 103rd birthday September 26. “Trying not to get killed or anything,” Gay quipped.
Simple, but effective. After all, the World War II and Korean War Air Force veteran served as the navigator in a B-26 during 53 bombing runs over North Korea. “We only took flak once.”
Three days after Gay celebrated his 103rd birthday, Barstow Home resident Catherine Miller turned 100. Her husband, Harry, was an Air Force officer and pilot who served in three wars. He died at 88 in 2011.
A veteran in the Fresno Home well might lean toward Gay’s credo.
Jane Boote, who will turn 102 on Christmas Day, told CalVet Connect that she survived the “coldest night of my life” in France in the fall of 1944. The Army veteran and career nurse spent that winter in frigid weather across France, Belgium, and Germany while tending to wounded soldiers in General Patton’s Third Army.
The rest of her 43-year nursing career certainly offered its share of challenges, but nearly freezing to death for nights on end wasn’t among them.
Ventura Home veteran Mack Edwards, a quartermaster in the Army Air Corps during World War II, tended to B-29s that pounded Japan during World War II, taking them to Tinian and other airfields closer to Japan as the war in the Pacific wound down.
Edwards joked that his secret to a long, happy life is “wine, women, and song.” He also got great joy from growing fruit on his small farm in the Tulare County community of Springville, where he developed and patented a variety of white peach he called the “Edwards Ambrosia.”
In his second stay at the Ventura Home, he’s blessed with great physical and mental health.
“I walk without assistance,” said Edwards, who will turn 101 in January. “You have to keep your mind active and exercise to keep the body muscled up, limber, and strong. And eat well.”
It’s working, he said.
Happy Veterans Day!
“Often, people are surprised when they find out I’m 100,” Edwards said. “I look like I’m about 76, really. But the first question they usually ask is, ‘Are you still driving a car?’ I am. I’m licensed until 2024.”
Like the 22 other centenarians living in CalVet’s Veterans Homes, Edwards still has quite a motor.