Saturday, July 12, 2014
World War II veteran Eugene White’s 100th birthday wish is more for time — time he would use doing something he credits for his long life.
“I pray God leaves me here long enough to serve him more,” White said, adding that eating well while not smoking and drinking have also contributed to his many years.
White, a lifelong Fultonian, celebrated his 100th on Saturday at Fulton Manor, where he’s been a resident the past four years. He will officially turn triple digits on July 25.
Cindy Mutrax, Central Missouri Honor Flight guardian, and other Honor Flight volunteers who met White on his trip a year ago organized the bash — a mission they were on when the first met White at 99. During the trip, Mutrax took a selfie with White as a daily reminder to check up on him as his big day approached.
Since the trip, she thinks of White as a family member.
“I have this motto about the Honor Flight: We leave as friends and we go home as family,” Mutrax said.
The celebration started with Patriot Guard riders on 16 motorcycles rolling into the Fulton Manor parking lot, led by a mail truck with a special delivery: 369 birthday letters.
In preparation for White’s birthday, Mutrax created a Facebook challenge, requesting 100 cards for White’s 100th.
The cards poured in from across the country from states like New Hampshire, New Jersey and Texas, but the well wishes surpassed the U.S. border. People from countries like Canada and Argentina also wanted to say, “Happy Birthday, or rather, “Feliz Cumpleanos,” to White.
When handed all 369 cards, White joked that it would take two weeks for him to read all the letters. The Callaway County Commission also passed a resolution recognizing White’s service in World War II and to God. Between the cards, party and resolution, White was humble, stating he wasn’t sure if he was worthy of it all.
“I never expected such a thing,” White said.
Mutrax’s efforts showed how she and many others thought otherwise. She was not White’s guardian on his trip, but said she connected with him because of their parallel love for the Lord. Both carry a Bible with them, and Mutrax described White as a kind spirited man.
“What don’t I love about Eugene?” Mutrax said. “He is just amazing.”
In World War II, White built railroads and bridges. He remembered swimming across a river as a test before going off to war. White served in the military about 20 years.
As a Fulton resident, he worked in refrigeration and air conditioning.
White’s longest accomplishment, though, is being a 60-year member of the Gideons International, an organization dedicated to spreading God’s word through personal storytelling and Bible distribution.
He also was a prison minister at the Department of Corrections in Fulton and is a member at Richland Baptist Church where he met former pastor Larry Paris of New Bloomfield. When he was able to attend services, White said he loved singing his favorite church song, “Jesus Loves Me.”
“All the years I’ve come to know him he’s been so faithful,” Paris said.
His faith has led White throughout his life and it even directed his perspective on his time on Earth.
“To God, 100 years is five minutes,” White said.
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