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Our Friend Turns 100 Today

Updated: Feb 15, 2021

We have a friend who was born January 27, 1921. Yes, he is living a long and full life. Thirty years ago he and Mary Ann first met. He soon became her most valuable volunteer in literacy efforts where she was teaching adult ed. He was always eager to tutor students who were struggling, or tutor older adults who had never learned to read. He encouraged students who were not well disciplined, he challenged those who were lazy, and he cheered on one generation after another over his double decades of volunteering.

His energetic motivation grew out of his life experience. As a young teen during the 1930's depression era he found ways to work to help support their family. He and his brother Bob got up early to deliver the morning papers. By the time he was a sophomore in high school, he added a job, an hour after school each day doing ticket sales bookkeeping for the athletic department. At the same time he worked evenings and Saturdays at a ladies garments store, doing everything from typing invoices to sweeping the floor. As the oldest boy of three he set the example of how to be a responsible adult. He and his brothers turned four out of every five dollars earned over to their mother for the household. He says, “We just thought that was the way it ought to be.” Their father was a very capable man who had been a house building contractor during the 1920's and also a machinist, even an industrial plant superintendent, plus a number of other jobs. Bill says that all three of the brothers learned many practical skills from their Dad in spite of his shortcomings. Their dad lost each of his jobs due to his persistent alcoholism which also brought chaos into their home. Consequently, their family experienced even more tough times during the early 1930's. By the time Bill was about 14, his parents parted.

Bill and his brothers followed their mother’s example in responsible living. Each of them went on to good jobs. Bill, himself, got a starting position at Gibson Refrigerator in Greenville the summer he graduated from high school. When World War II arrived, young Bill saw the quiet refrigerator maker quickly re-tool to make war materials, even the production of over a 1,000 combat gliders, some of them used for D-day. Bill was designated tool engineer for that program. By the next year he was drafted into the Army. After the war, he returned to the company and helped it manage many other defense contracts, and became the Manager of Manufacturing Engineering.

What I am trying to describe is a man who learned how to manage change and cope with the unexpected in life. He and his sweetheart wife raised a family and weathered many challenges together. All the while he seems to have maintained his positive attitude and became a community leader and active church member. Bill led a decades long effort to reconstruct one of the WWII gliders from random parts, and energized a community effort that led to a museum for it in Greenville, Michigan. As I mentioned, he also eagerly served for a couple decades as a volunteer tutor helping others learn and grow as adult learners.

Two years ago I was preparing pre-publication copies of my book, Courage to Care, for an initial class and for reader-reviewers. Bill invited me to his apartment where he showed me how to use his binder, and helped me put together seventy copies. His eagerness and energy amazed me. He is an author, too, having written unique volumes about others’ war experiences, plus a well-documented history of the Gibson Electric Refrigerator Company, later absorbed by Electrolux.

If reading this brief summary makes you tired, that’s testimony to this unique man who continues to live a full life. Although his body is slowing him down, and he now resides in an assisted living residence, he continues to bring smiles to those who meet him. He is an eager conversationalist, and was cheerful as always when we saw him three months ago.

What do you and I want to do with our remaining years, whether they be long or short? I am inspired to keep living, keep believing, keep engaged with others, and make the most of every day.

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.

You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give

you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ Matt. 25:21 NLT

© 2021 Stanley Hagemeyer

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