A lot happened in 1916:
▪ The United States prepared to enter World War I.
▪ Charlie Chaplin signed contracts leading to some of his classic silent movies.
▪ John D. Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire.
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▪ The first self-service grocery store, Piggly Wiggly, opened in Memphis.
▪ The first Pulitzer Prize board met to choose inaugural winners of the writing awards.
And last but not least, Glendell McCullough “Mack” Marker arrived on Saturday, Aug. 26, the first of 14 children of Pennsylvania farm parents. The three-time Bronze Star recipient grew to help raise his many siblings, serve honorably in World War II and later as a surveyor in the Army Corps of Engineers. A couple of years ago, at age 98, he drove himself from Pennsylvania to stay with his niece and her husband, Sheila and John Cominsky of Clover, and settled in.
“He just showed up and moved in,” Sheila said. “It’s been great ever since.”
Marker added, “I’ve quit driving, though. You need good reflexes, and I am 100!”
Last weekend he celebrated his centennial with dozens of friends and family, ranging in age from 6 months to his own 10 decades. On his birthday he spent time with friends at the Kings Mountain Life Enrichment Center. The next day came the kind of homey celebration famous in families – lots of food, fun and a cake as big as a table.
He received dozens of cards and greetings, including many handmade cards from Heather Mendelsohn’s sixth graders at Clover Middle School. Many exhibited a patriotic theme in honor of Mr. Marker’s long service.
Early Autos and Storms
As clouds gathered over the lawn for a welcome rain, Marker perched on the porch for a few reflections. He worked hard growing up, helping with the younger kids, milking and tackling chores on the family farm, while also laboring nearby for $30 a month. Everyone worked as soon as they could, he said. It was expected.
“Back then you depended on yourself, and on family.”
He’s been around cell phones and computers, but prefers just talking to real people. He remembers watching an uncle parade with local boys on their way to join the battles of World War I. When the first automobiles arrived, “Everyone would go to the highway and watch them go by,” he said.
“It was so different and new.”
As he grew, he played mandolin, fiddle or guitar at square dances and gatherings. He was valedictorian of his high school graduating class, reciting a mail-order speech school officials provided.
“I memorized it all, word for word, but I didn’t write a speech.”
Then he signed up, serving in the European Theater during World War II and earning the Bronze Star for achievement three times. He doesn’t linger on details, but can look back over his citations and mementos in a scrapbook prepared by his grand-niece, Jessica Cody.
Upon returning to the states, he took a job as a surveyor with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working in Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia. He has outlived his two wives, Arlene and Gladys, and a young son, Glenny. Now he enjoys his friends and large extended family.
He keeps his mind busy to stay sharp.
“You gotta work your brain. People might think you’re crazy by what you say, but they know that you are thinking.” He chuckled.
As he watched one approach, Marker said he’s always loved storms.
“We were crazy when we were kids, watching, maybe from where we shouldn’t have,” he said. “It was exciting – lightning all over, big crashes of thunder – but we never got hurt. I still like them.”
Marker doesn’t dispense health or habit advice for long living. He enjoys his hamburgers and rolls his own cigarettes. As to the inevitable “What’s next?” question, he says he’s just enjoying things. “I’m happy enough to go along and keep on living.”