Vets Day extra special for vet turning 100
Peering over the tops of his glasses, Merle McNutt reacts humorously when asked what it will mean to him to turn 100 years old on Wednesday, Nov. 14.
"I'm still alive," he laughs as he sits at a dining room table in the Heather Haus dining room in Blooming Prairie, sipping his morning coffee.
Not only will McNutt reach a milestone of making 100, he will also pay respect to the many American veterans who are remembered on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, for making many sacrifices.
McNutt is a military veteran himself, spending three years in the United States Navy during World War II. He said he joined the military because he figured it was his duty. He was 23 at the time.
He proudly pulls out his Selective Service card that says he joined the Navy on Dec. 15, 1942. He was discharged on Nov. 8, 1945. World War II ended on Aug. 14, 1945.
According to United States Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 496,777 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2018. McNutt is one of those hallowed Americans.
The National World War II Museum states that Minnesota has 10,133 World War II veterans. Which state has the most World War II veterans? It's California with 51,567.
McNutt is very agile for his age, walking the halls from his apartment to the dining room and to the TV room. He also tries to regularly attend church at First Lutheran Church of Blooming Prairie.
McNutt loves to dress up and typically wears classy attire to suit his 6-foot-2-inch. frame.
"I'm a little slower now," McNutt believes.
Tammy Johnson, a close friend of McNutt's the past nine years, says McNutt must be eating the right food and the right drink.
His upcoming birthday will prompt some special celebrations and it is expected that his three children will be in Blooming Prairie to help him celebrate this momentous occasion.
The family got together this past July for an early birthday celebration and McNutt reunion.
An outing is planned for Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Timber Lodge Steak House in Owatonna and then another outing is set for the Hubbell House in Mantorville on Nov. 14.
Merle Wilson McNutt was born to Homer and Alice on a farm near Sheldon, Iowa.
Born in the rich farming community of northwestern Iowa, McNutt still affectionately remembers his heritage in O'Brien County. He can recite, from memory, all the townships and there are 16 of them in O'Brien County. He chuckles when saying people wonder how he can remember the township names. "I learned them in eighth grade, and my trick is to do them in fours," he says.
McNutt and his late wife LaNelle had three children: Melanie, Edmonton Alberta, Canada; Marsonda, Grand Forks, N.D., and Mace, a banker from Minneapolis. The McNutts came to Minnesota in the late 1940s when he rented land from his brother in Austin.
He met his wife while attending high school in Sheldon, Iowa. The couple married in Chicago when McNutt was serving in the Navy.
His wife taught in Grand Meadow for 17 years. McNutt said his children often teased their mother who taught fourth grade: "When are you going to get out of fourth grade?" McNutt said he often met some of her students who said she was the best teacher they had ever had.
McNutt farmed in Sergeant for many years before moving to Blooming Prairie at the turn of the 21st century.
McNutt loves talking about his Navy career. He was an aircraft machinist.
Most of McNutt's service time was spent in Jacksonville, Fla. He remembers starting out in pay at $21 a month and later advancing in rank and pay to $96 a month. As a mechanic, if he logged four hours of flying time a month, he would gain an additional $48 in salary. "It was like gold," he recalls.
McNutt often flew north with fellow servicemen to travel out of the path of hurricanes. He said hurricanes always made a roar. "We knew when they were coming because the waves got so high and the noise was loud," he said.
Patriotism is important to McNutt and it is shown with a large American flag draped above his bed headboard.
McNutt and fellow veteran Bob Prokopec placed an American flag and pole in the patio area of the Heather Haus just a few years ago.
McNutt has lived during the terms of 18 presidents, from Woodrow Wilson to Donald Trump.
He says he often wonders why a half dozen leaders around the world can't get together and declare peace around the world.
"There will probably always be wars to protect our freedoms," he says. He believes it's necessary to have a strong military to maintain respect.
Asked if he thought he would ever reach 100, McNutt said, "I feel good, so I don't worry about it much."