SMALL TOWNS: “Irreplaceable gem” turns 100 with surprise party in Omro
OMRO, Wis. (WBAY) - While the odds have increased in recent decades, living to the age of 100 remains a remarkable and somewhat rare feat.
Of the nearly eight billion people in the world, only 316,000 can call themselves a centenarian, which is why a local community recently honored a World War II veteran on his milestone birthday.
At the Omro Area Community Center, Ervin Fay is the man of the hour.
“How old am I? One hundred years!” he shouts to a cheering crowd.
And that earns him a special serenade from his wife, Alice.
“Well darling, I’m telling you now,” sings Alice before giving Ervin a big kiss.
When word spread that Ervin was set to turn 100, community leaders organized a surprise party.
“He’s an irreplaceable gem. To be able to turn 100, the community center felt that we need to celebrate for him,” says Bree Goodearle, Omro Area Community Center Executive Director.
After growing up in Plainfield, Ervin served his country.
“Thirty-eight years and 10 months and 4 days in the service,” says Ervin with a chuckle.
He was first in the Army during World War II, then a long career as a mechanic in the Air Force that took him around the world during the Korean War and Cuban Missile Crisis.
“Interesting life, you know, the things you do, places you travel, different countries and all that stuff,” recalls Ervin.
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In fact, if he could, Ervin says he’d re-enlist in the Air Force.
“Probably would, yeah, go back in there again and give her another whirl,” says Ervin with a smile.
A position in the Civil Service inspecting military vehicles at Oshkosh Truck Corporation brought Ervin and Alice to Omro in 1977.
“Omro is a nice place,” says Alice.
The parents of eight children, the couple recently celebrated their 75th anniversary.
“I told him he wouldn’t have made it 75 if he had married somebody else. She’d have probably divorced him through the years,” says Alice with a chuckle.
As the years passed, Ervin began to set his sights on living for a century.
“It’s just like this milestone. He said, ‘If I can just get to 100,’ and I said why do you want to get to 100? He says, ‘It’s just a cool number. I want to get to 100,’” explains Ervin’s daughter, Mary Schuessler.
Ervin’s recipe to making it happen is staying active.
“He’s not a man to sit still. He’s got this or that, or go look for something to do. That’s what it really is, I think,” says Alice.
“I kept busy. I think, pretty much all through my years, slow down a little bit in the wintertime, but give her hell in the summertime,” says Ervin.
“He loves life. He actually loves life. He loves summertime, and sometimes he says to me, why do we have to die? As tough as it is and he has aches and pains, he just loves getting up in the morning, and he loves his dog, and just looking at the weather. He just loves life. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. He’s just a cool guy,” adds daughter Mary.
One other key to Ervin’s longevity, he confided: a younger, feisty wife.
“I don’t feel like 95. I mean, I think I’m like 75 or 65,” says Alice with a grin.
Along with hundreds of cards from friends and neighbors around town, Ervin receives some gifts, including 100 scratch-off lottery tickets, and some brandy and Coke, which he calls his medicine.
A special occasion for a man honored by his community.
“We are all just touched that they would think that special of my dad. I’m very blessed. We all are,” says Mary.
“I think it’s pretty nice that somebody thinks about you, right,” says Ervin, filled with pride.
And in just a few hours, Ervin Fay will get busy working on his next century.
“I just seem to be hanging in there. It’s hard to believe a person would do that, get that far. I don’t know how much farther I’m going to go yet, but we’ll start all over tonight at midnight,” says Ervin with a smile.
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