The Radford Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 776 hosted a birthday party on Thursday to celebrate a monumental birthday. James Todd turned 100 years old.
For VFW commander Gary Harris, honoring Todd with a birthday party was the least her could do for his good friend. Another VFW member, Robert “Moose” Atkinson, turned 99 last week and was also honored.
“He’s taught me to be respectful and I respect him. We hit it off. I enjoy being around him,” Harris said.
Harris wanted to share what made Todd the man he is today.
“He always talks about growing up. His dad owned a soda bottling company. He would go in the plant and watch. He would talk about pulling a lever to fill the bottle up and another lever to put the top on. He would put them in the carton. He knew how many cartons would fit in the putt mobile (Todd’s small car),” Harris said. “He would deliver them and get five cents a bottle. He would wash them and fill them up again. He would do that as a high school kid.”
According to Harris, after high school, Todd decided to join the Marine Corps.
“He told me that that was when the draft was going on. He wasn’t going to get drafted because of his job, but because all of his friends were joining, he decided to join the Marine Corps,” Harris said. “He was, and is still, very intelligent.”
Todd was madly in love with his wife Mary Todd. According to Harris, they would write letter to one another when he was overseas fighting in WWII. When he returned from fighting, he married her on the spot. After she passed in 2006, Harris and Todd became good friends. Harris had begun helping around the house and was asked to ensure Todd was taking care of himself after his wife’s passing. Eventually, that friendship turned into an everyday visit from Harris.
“Unless I’m on vacation or sick, I see him everyday,” Harris said.
Harris believes that Todd’s approach to safety is why he managed to live so long.
“The first thing I noticed about Mr. Todd was safety. He was safety conscious at the Radford Arsenal as an engineer. He went by the rules. If you went with him somewhere, he always, always washed his hands,” Harris said. “If we went to the grocery store, and he touched money, the first thing he did was wash his hands. He also always said please and thank you. I think these things helped him live so long. Also, he ate really well. They (Todd and his wife) were always healthy.”
Both men have reached old age despite fighting in war and living through the Great Depression. According to Harris, not everybody gets to live that long.
“Some people pay the price. Everybody does their job overseas. You just pray a lot. You see your friends get killed and you ask ‘why wasn’t that me?’ By the grace of God, you come home,” Harris said.
Harris and the VFW Post 776 will celebrate Veterans Day on Nov. 7 with a 21-gun salute at Wheatland Hills. For more information on the VFW, contact Gary Harris at 641-2590.