Frank Charles hit the big 1-0-0 on Sept. 6, and he celebrated hitting the century-mark in grand fashion.
There was live music, visits from family members, appearances from dignitaries and a gathering — along with a cake and balloons — at the Baldomero Lopez State Veterans’ Nursing Home, 6919 Parkway Blvd., in Land O’ Lakes.
In the weeks leading up to the event, Frank — a veteran of the U.S. Air Force — talked about his upcoming party.
He was looking forward to the cake, the gathering and seeing his daughters, Debbie Charles, who lives in Gainesville, and Jennnene Colky, who lives in Denver.
Debbie’s in-laws — Madison Welch, Bob Welch and Colleen Welch, of Tampa, and June Russell, of Lutz — were also at the birthday bash.
“The nursing home and the FDVA (Florida Department of Veterans Affairs) did an outstanding job of making my father feel special on his 100th birthday,” his daughter, Debbie, said in a telephone interview, following the event.
“They did a marvelous job of decorating with balloons,” she added, and those attending were able to enjoy their choice of a piece of chocolate or white cake from a sheet cake she brought to the party.
“They played Elvis, and they sang Happy Birthday and God Bless America. It was wonderful,” Debbie added.
Rebecca Pinson, social services program manager at Baldomero Lopez, recounted some of the party highlights.
She said Frank received a service medal from Bob Asztalos, deputy executive director of FDVA, and an award from Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley. Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano and Marlies Sarrett, the nursing home administrator, congratulated Frank, too.
Frank’s daughter, Jennene, provided some background about her dad, during a telephone interview.
She said he grew up in Philadelphia, where he lived before enlisting in U.S. Air Force.
“He was initially trained as a pilot, in Texas. They decided they didn’t need any more pilots, so they trained him as a navigator. They decided they didn’t need any more navigators. By time he got into the war, it was September 1944, and the poor guy was a ball turret gunner.”
Somehow, while he was in the ball turret, his oxygen lines were cut and he passed out, she said. Fortunately, someone saw what happened and he was rescued.
Frank was just 22 at the time.
After the war, he returned to Philadelphia where he went to work for the Philadelphia Electric Company, as a machinist.
He later made a trip to Florida, where he fell in love with the weather. He decided to move his family to Ft. Lauderdale, where he went to work as a machinist for Florida Power & Light.
Later, the family moved to Vero Beach, and then, Frank and his second wife moved to Gainesville, to live closer to Debbie.
After his second wife died, Frank remained in the Gainesville area until he moved to Baldomero Lopez about 14 months ago Debbie said.
Besides his two daughters, Frank has three grandchildren who live in Colorado and one who lives in Pennsylvania.
During a recent interview, Frank said his usual routine at the nursing home typically includes a breakfast of scrambled eggs and orange juice, followed by exercise and then cruising around the nursing home in his wheelchair.
He said he enjoys watching television, especially old westerns and episodes of M.A.S.H.
His daughter, Debbie, said her dad seems to be in his element.
“He’s totally happy there. He’s been there for more than a year. It’s his home,” she said.
Published September 14, 2022