100 Years and Counting

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

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| This is the 100th story of Our Life Logs |

When I tell people I’m 100 years old, their eyes widen like they’re looking at a rare gem. I suppose I am, but I don’t see it that way. I have three crucial things that I think have helped me live this long. One: I take a tablespoon of cod liver oil every day. This probably does nothing, but it’s one of the only traditions I’ve kept all these years to keep me healthy. Two: I have good genes. My mother lived to be 90 and a few of her relatives lived past 90. Three: people in my life. This is the most important of all. The many wonderful people in my life, the ones still around and who have passed, have all left an imprint on my heart. Without the ability to go out and socialize with people, I don’t think I would have lived this long. I’ve lived a happy, full life that has carried me into many decades. I’ve watched the world change before my eyes, and I’ve changed with it. The experiences I’ve had have given me the strength and happiness to keep living a life full of happiness and friendship.

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I was born on July 17, 1917 in Newport, Kentucky. I was the eldest of three boys. My mother’s side was German, and my father’s family was Italian, so our household was mixture of both cultures. My father reworked wool for a living. When I was three, we moved to Ft. Thomas where I lived for the rest of my childhood. There, our house sat atop a hill overlooking Lunken Airport. We spent our evening watching the airplanes take off. I didn’t worry so much about the great noise of the engines. I was intrigued by the size of the planes and dreamed of flying one someday.

Me (left) with my brothers Dave and Jim, c. 1930s.
Me (left) with my brothers Dave and Jim, c. 1930s.

I always enjoyed school because I loved learning new things. The school had great teachers, some of which were priests. I have a fond memory from the third grade when a priest came into our class one day to talk about heaven. He told us, “heaven, is seeing God face to face.” At the time, I couldn’t comprehend what that meant, but I do now. That quote from him is something I’ll never forget because the older I got, the more it resonated with me.

As I grew up, I made great friends that I liked to bum around with. We did lots of things together like football, tennis, swimming, and sometimes we’d go out on dates with girls together. I remained close with two guys, Johnny and Jerry, for decades. It was through Johnny, that I met my wife, Mary. I grew up with Johnny and Jerry and got to know their families. Mary was five years younger than me, but she and I were interested in each other from a young age. Over time, we became more serious. Mary was attractive; she wore hats and had beautiful eyes. She was the type of person you wanted to be around, and she loved me.

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I did well in my classes and skipped the seventh and eighth grade. I began high school by age 12 at Covington Latin High School. This school was mostly academic, and the workload was heavy. I learned things like trigonometry, German, and Latin. Latin was the hardest, of course, but I got by. I graduated high school at 16 and immediately began at Xavier University.

I was the only one in my family to go to college. My younger brothers chose to work with my father in the mill. I felt I had so much more to learn. For me, college was more about educating the mind and heart than it was about obtaining money. I earned a Bachelor of Arts where through the degree I studied literature, languages, and history. I loved spending time reading poetry and indulging in the works of Shakespeare.

A portrait of me when I was about 18.
A portrait of me when I was about 18.

In my fourth year of college in 1937, I decided to take a heating/ air conditioning class. At the time, it was just coming to the surface, so I felt it was a good business to get into.  After taking the class and graduating college, I began working within the heating/air conditioning business until I went into the United States Air Corps in 1941 in the wake of the second world war. Unsure of what was to come, I proposed to Mary before going into the service. It wasn’t some lavish proposal, I knew I loved her and she felt the same.

Me and Mary, c. 1940.
Me and Mary, c. 1940.
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In the service, I was a flight instructor for B-17 planes at Wright-Patterson in Dayton. The planes were bombers used in Europe against the Germans. I never had to go overseas, which I was thankful for, but there were moments when I feared for my life. I think the boldest thing I’ve ever done was during my time in uniform. I was once flying a plane with five other passengers, when suddenly the engine caught fire. I couldn’t land easily without the risk of the plane exploding. But before doing anything else, before checking for other solutions, I stopped to pray. I knew we couldn’t jump or put the fire out, so I had no choice but to land it despite the risks. I believe my bold choice to pray helped me land the plane safely.

Me during my time in the service in the 1940s.
Me during my time in the service in the 1940s.

Even so, to be alone on Christmas my first year in the service was one of the lowest points of my life. I remember the heavy, lonely feeling I held in my heart that day. I couldn’t be with my family or fiancée. That’s one day I never want to relive.

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When the war was coming to an end, I was stationed in Lockburn in Columbus, Ohio. In April of 1945, Mary became my wife and we started our family soon after. Mary and I had our first child, a baby girl named Katie, in March 1946. In 1947, we had our second child Patty. It was wonderful to begin building a family with my beautiful wife.

On our wedding day, 1945.