VACAVILLE, Calif. — Family and friends of a World War II veteran from California celebrated his 100th birthday in style Friday, as a motorcade rolled past his senior living facility.
Theodore Augustus Mertz was born June 4, 1921, in Danville, Illinois, KTXL reported. For his 100th birthday, Mertz was showered with gifts as cars and trucks rolled past the Pacifica Senior Living facility in Vacaville, the television station reported. Some of the 200 vehicles were draped in American flags. It was a ceremony the former Navy veteran relished.
“It’s emotional, exciting for us,” Mertz’s daughter, Sue Shurtleff, told The Times-Herald of Vallejo. “He’s excited we were decorating.”
The vehicles included a medic ambulance truck, a lowrider and classic cars like a GTO, Camaro and a Model T, the newspaper reported. As the vehicles rolled past Mertz, a pianist played 1920s and ’30s hits like “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Deep Purple.”
Mertz was one of 11 children. After Pearl Harbor was bombed on Dec. 7, 1941, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in the Philippines for most of the war, the newspaper reported. He was honorably discharged as a first-class V-6 aviation ordinance man on Dec. 1, 1945, The Times-Herald reported.
Mertz and his wife, Claire, were married for 59 years before her death in 2005, KTXL reported. They met in the Philippines after the war, when Mertz was a crane operator and stayed at the boarding house run by her father, The Times-Herald reported.
The couple had four daughters. Mertz now has seven grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren, with number six on the way, KTXL reported.
The Mertzes moved to the Sacramento area in 1951 and to Vallejo in 1958, The Times-Herald reported. Mertz’s daughter, Mona Pierce, said he worked for Syar Industries for 27 years, where he helped build Interstate 780 from Vallejo to Benicia.
“He drove a tractor and put those roads in,” Pierce told the newspaper.
Pacifica’s Rosa Gracida helped make the 100th birthday celebration possible.
“I looked at the day of his birthday, I right away said he’s going to be 100 in two months,” Gracida told KTXL. “At that point, we decided to do a 100-car parade for his 100th birthday.”
Mertz’s granddaughter, Lindsay Martin, said the family has been planning his centennial since he turned 95.
“Once he hit 95, we knew he was going to make it to 100,” Martin told The Times-Herald. “At 95, he was still driving and living essentially independently with my aunt staying with him.”
The procession ended with a big pink firetruck and a police car, the newspaper reported. Three young boys saluted Mertz and then put their hands over their hearts as Whitney Houston’s rendition of the national anthem played. When the song ended, confetti was fired out of poppers.
Mertz was happy, and so were his relatives.
“He’s such a great dad and such a great person, and I feel so honored and so proud of him,” Shurtleff told KTXL.
Mertz kept his milestone birthday in perspective. Asked about how he felt to turn 100, he had a one-word answer for The Times-Herald.
“Alive,” Mertz told the newspaper.
©2021 Cox Media Group