My Great Grandfather died at 103 years old. He was born into a poor family on a farm in Georgia. He couldn’t read or write and spent his days working on the family farm instead of in school. When he was 14 years old he ran away from home, lied about his age, and joined the U.S. Navy. He sent his paychecks back to his parents and siblings to support them.
After the Navy, he settled in Long beach California where he worked a blue collar job for the electric company, climbing telephone poles. He did this same job for over 30 years. At some point after the Navy, he joined the Masons and dedicated his life to being a Freemason. When he died, he had reached the highest achievable level in the organization.
When he was 98 years old, he was mugged walking down the street in Long Beach. He chased after the people who stole his wallet.
Growing up with no education and never learning to read or write until he was in the Navy, he understood and valued the importance of education. When he was 99 years old, he went back to school and took a class at Long Beach community college.
Family was the most important thing to him. He had over a dozen great grandchildren. He would handwrite a letter to each and every one of us every month. One time when I was around 10 years old, I typed a letter to him on my school computer. He asked me to please only handwrite letters to him because of the importance of penmanship.
Up until the age of 100 years old he would swim in the ocean everyday. In 2003, just before he died, he was admitted into the U.S. Navy hall of fame for being the oldest living survivor of his battleship. Today, there are 4 generations of Bowers living in California because of him.