Elmer Mack Celebrates a Century

By Diane M. Loeffler

 

Do you know a local resident who is one hundred or older? Twenty-two Sun City Center Community Association members have reached or surpassed that number with one born in 1914, one in 1915, two in 1917, two in 1918, four in 1919, four in 1919, seven in 1920 and five in 1921. I had the privilege of interviewing a gentleman who turned 100 in May, Elmer Mack.

Betty, Elmer Mack’s wife of “39 wonderful years”, describes him as “a walking history book.” He grew up in Leipsic, Ohio and remembers when Main Street was filled with “as many horses as cars.” For three years, he served in the Signal Corps in General Patton’s Third Army and later worked civil service jobs including time on the fifth floor of the Pentagon, working as a power management analyst and being in charge of manpower, specifically National Guard troops.

Mack handled communications with President Truman and Secretary of State Burns after the war. He flew in a small plane with a four-star general. When the situation in Cuba was escalating, he was on a plane headed for Puerto Rico to check on a National Guard unit. The plane flew over Cuba for surveillance. Later, President Kennedy held his speech for three days while Elmer Mack was figuring out how many people he could amass for duty. The evening after Mack turned in his report, Kennedy reported the numbers Mack gave him.

Mack joined the original American Legion in Paris, France. Later he joined the American Legion post in Smithfield, Virginia and still belongs to it. That American Legion post is the oldest in the United States. Its building was constructed by the British.

If you speak to Elmer Mack, ask him about the Bob Hope Concert he attended as a serviceman, having lunch with John Glenn, drinking a beer with Gus Grissom, eating with Les Brown (while his “Band of Renown” played) and posing with other servicemen in a post-war photo with Russians at what was supposed to be the Elbe River (The photo was later in the AARP magazine on the fiftieth anniversary of WWII). Mack has dozens of amazing stories to share.

Elmer and Betty Mack moved to Sun City Center about twenty years ago after nine years of traveling in a motorhome (Ask him about all of the places they traveled.). Friends wanted them to live here in SCC and helped them find a place. Their walls are covered with beautiful paintings painted by Betty. She also drew cartoons for the predecessor of The News of SCC and South County. Sadly, she is now legally blind and can no longer paint or draw.

When asked what advice they would give new residents, Elmer and Betty answered in unison, “Go volunteer somewhere!” The Macks have practiced what they preach. They drove for the Security Patrol, including a shift in the middle of the night.

Shortly after Samaritan Services began SCC Rides, Betty and Elmer drove an old Ford Taurus for the service. Now Elmer and Betty use SCC Rides to get to appointments. Bruce Fraser met them while driving them to appointments. Fraser says, “Elmer is as sharp as a tack. He always has a story. The two together have lived a very interesting life.”

Until February of 2020, the Macks went to the Fitness Center three times a week. Now they use exercise equipment at their home. Ernie Kocivan says, “Elmer came to the Fitness Center for five years even though he was limited in what he could do. He was just bubbly. He talked to everybody.”

Elmer says, “Sun City Center is a place where you can get help for everything. You can’t beat the price. We always vote for every dues increase.”

During the quarantine period in February 2020, he and his wife signed up for delivery services from Walmart and ordered items on-line. “Friends and neighbors are always willing to help and they won’t accept money.” One neighbor, Ann Savage, says she is amazed at how independent they are and says they are “charming” people.

Elmer says, “Every morning we check the obituaries to make sure we’re still alive. If we are, then we check the calendar to see what doctor appointments we have.”

If you know any of the other one hundred years and older residents, talk to them, see what they need, ask for their advice. Another idea, follow Betty and Elmer Webb’s advice, “Go volunteer somewhere.”

SCC Rides volunteer Bruce Fraser has gotten to know Elmer and his wife Betty while giving them rides to appointments. Fraser said, “I thought it would be nice to honor him somehow.” He asked Walt Cawein for help organizing something for the WWII veteran. The result was a parade with horses, law enforcement motorcycles, the Emergency Squad Ambulance, and a long line of golf carts.

The carts assembled at Friendship Baptist Church at 2:30. The caravan ended at St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, near the Mack residence.

Afterwards, former Director and CA President Sam Sudman presented a citation on behalf of the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners. Mack was also presented with a U.S. Flag flown over the Capitol on behalf of Congressman Buchanan, an engraved brick (to be placed in the Veteran’s Memorial in front of Community Hall) by the SCC Charitable Foundation, a citation from MOWW from Vern Elarth (retired Air Force Captain), and a citation from MOAA by Jim Haney (retired USMC Major).

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