November 11th is the day we proudly celebrate our veterans in America, so this month I wanted to introduce you to one of my favorite people, a member of the “Greatest Generation” who has taught me a lot about life and longevity.
At nearly 102-years-old, decorated World War II veteran Horace Appleby is an incredible example of strength, humility, humor, and good health. Oh, he moves a little slower these days than he used to, but he’s still sharp as a tack: he can recall with crystal clarity memories from decades ago.
When you ask him how he lived to be nearly 102, he says, “I’m just lucky I guess!” But from my conversations with Horace, I think there’s much more to it than luck. I’ve compiled what I’m calling Horace’s Guidelines to Long Life to share with you.
Horace left his home in Alabama when was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941. He saw up to 200 consecutive days of combat during the most intense fighting of World War II. He faced death nearly every day for four years but was never even wounded in the war. Horace carried his M-1 rifle through North Africa, France and Germany where he helped liberate the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He’s received more than a dozen awards and commendations including the Silver Star, which he earned by saving a buddy’s life on the battlefield.
Follow The Golden Rule.
It was the 5th of January near Wildenguth, France. American soldiers were ordered to take a strategic hill from the Germans but they were sorely outnumbered. As they tried to advance, the Germans at the top of the hill saw them coming and started shooting them down. Horace’s unit was ordered to retreat, but as Horace was backing out, he saw the Company’s medic waving for help in the middle of the battlefield. Horace sprang to action, dragging “Doc” to cover behind a pile of wood.
“I had a rifle and Doc kept handing me ammunition, but the Germans were surrounding us so I said, ‘Doc, we have to make a run for it back to the Company and we did,” Horace recalls. “We dug us a foxhole and laid low. The next morning, our unit got a tank and took that hill!”
When asked more about saving his buddy’s life, he shrugs it off with humility, “I would want someone to do that for me,” he says.
Develop an Attitude of Gratitude.
After the war, Horace came to Toledo and found success in the auto parts manufacturing industry for more than three decades. Horace met his wife Catherine at the plant and they raised two daughters and a son together. They were happily married for more than 50 years when she died of lung cancer in 2002. He also buried a daughter who had a heart attack.
Despite adversity and loss, Horace has always maintained his positive attitude. “I’ve had a happy life,” he says. “I’m thankful for that.”
Horace believes one of the reasons he survived all those years of combat was because he learned to put safety first and he continues to live his life that way.
“I always try to think of things that might happen and do whatever I can to prevent it,” he says. “We used to have this huge mirror hanging over our couch in the living room and I always said to my wife, ‘That mirror could kill someone if it fell down.’ She thought I was crazy, but I moved the couch away from the wall about 8 inches and wouldn’t you know, one day I was taking a nap on the couch and that mirror fell right off the wall and shattered on the floor. I might not be telling you this story today if I hadn’t moved that couch.”
Fight for Your Health.
After smoking for years, Horace and his wife decided to quit one day back in the 1970’s and never picked up another cigarette. He played volleyball and worked out three days a week — even after he had both knees replaced at age 75.
“One thing about living so long is your body just starts wearing out,” Horace says.
But Horace doesn’t like his age to be a factor in his health decisions. When he was 90, he needed open-heart surgery, and when one doctor refused to do it because of his age, he searched until he found one who would. He had a defibrillator implanted and 12 years later; he says his heart’s still going strong.
His left knee is another story. “I’ve lived so long I’ve worn out the replacement,” he jokes, but says he can’t really see getting another replacement at this point. He uses a walker and has moved in with his great-niece Renee who, he says, “spoils me.”
Live with a Sense of Purpose.
Renee makes sure Horace has plenty on his schedule to keep him busy because she says he has always lived his life with a sense of purpose. His friends and relatives seek his advice on a variety of matters and he enjoys talking and visiting with people on a regular basis.
Researchers and others seek Horace out to ask questions about his service in World War II. Even when they come in as strangers, they leave as friends. When I asked Horace if there was anything left on his bucket list he thought for a minute,“No…I imagine I’ve done pretty much everything I’ve wanted to do in my life.”
I don’t know anyone who’s lived his life with more purpose and integrity than Horace Appleby. Horace didn’t follow these guidelines with the goal of living to 102, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Horace turns 102 on December 22nd. Wouldn’t it be great to show our appreciation to Horace by flooding him with birthday cards of appreciation? If you’d like to, send Horace a note to the address below. I’ll deliver the cards and make sure we give this American Hero a birthday to remember!
ATTENTION: Chrys Peterson
1801 Richards Road
Toledo, OH 43607
Chrys Peterson is a correspondent for ProMedica HealthConnect and spokeswoman for Friends for Life, a monthly newsletter for women that offers health and wellness advice with a focus on cancer prevention.