BREVARD COUNTY ― Not a minute went by that someone didn’t personally greet Marine Colonel George McClane with saying, “Happy Birthday, and thank you for your service.”
The words of endearment marked a special day worth celebrating.
“I had an idea something was going to happen, but they wouldn’t tell me,” Mr. McClane said as he walked into the Pro Health & Fitness Center on Merritt Island to a surprise party to celebrate a milestone – his 100th birthday.
Banners that read, "Happy 100th Birthday, George,” cake and family and friends, all made him feel overwhelmed.
“I just feel lucky,” Mr. McClane said, as he smiled and took pictures with many friends and gym-goers.
As far as a special remedy or secret, he said there isn’t one.
Mr. McClane works out five days a week at the gym. It’s a regimen he’s stuck with for several decades, which began in 1942.
That’s when he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps shortly after Japanese planes attacked the U.S. Naval Base at Pearl Harbor.
George wanted to help and knew he wanted to be a fighter pilot, but it wouldn’t be easy.
“I’d never flown in my life,” Mr. McClane said.
After several months of basic training as a fighter pilot, Mr. McClane would eventually serve two tours in World War II – Bougainville and Okinawa.
Years later, he would also serve as a fighter pilot in the Korean War, flying the same plane he used in World War II – a Vought F4U Corsair.
But through it all, both wars and coming back home and working at the Kennedy Space Center for 31 years, exercising was still at his main core.
“I really enjoy it,” Mr. McClane said. “I come to this gym five days a week. It gets me out of the house and something to look forward to.”
It also gives his daughter, Marina Cadwallder, who arrived from Texas for the special occasion, comfort knowing her father stays active and loved by so many.
“I am so amazed at the accomplishments that my dad has had in his life,” Ms. Cadwallder said. “He is such a strong person, humble and honest. Above all, he is my best friend and the person I rely on for direction in my life.”