PLATTSMOUTH – “Let the party begin.”
That’s what one of Benjamin Blair’s many friends said on Friday and it certainly became a nice event, filled with family and friends.
There was a good reason why or as his daughter, Kay Blair said, “It’s special.”
Blair, a resident at the Plattsmouth Care and Rehab home was celebrating his 100th birthday.
Blair’s wife of 70 years, Eunice, 92, along with their three daughters – Gaylia Reicks, Kay Blair and Cheryl Wisniewski, plus grandson Ben VanVranken—came out for the celebration. So did officials of the South Omaha American Legion, plus members of the Midwest Early Corvette Club, which Blair helped start.
Blair was born on Dec. 21, 1918 in what he jokingly called “the big city” of Gross, Neb.
“There was one man and he ran a hamburger restaurant,” Blair recalled.
On Dec. 1, 1941, days before Pearl Harbor, Blair was drafted into the 324th Army Air Corps and served until Oct. 13, 1945, after World War II ended. He worked as an airplane mechanic and was assigned to posts in many countries overseas, including Egypt, Libya, Italy, Austria and France.
In Italy, Blair was stationed at a base by Mt. Vesuvius when suddenly one day the volcano awoke. Blair and the others had little time to escape and while he did not suffer serious injuries, he still felt the impact of that eruption.
“We had sore necks from the burning ash,” Blair said.
Another time, he and fellow squadron members were attacked by German troops and Blair was wounded in the leg.
“He still has shrapnel in the leg,” Gaylia said.
For his bravery, Blair received a Purple Heart medal.
After returning home, Blair would meet his future wife and the two were married on Sept. 5, 1948 at the Zion Lutheran Church in Chambers, Neb.
On having such a long and happy marriage, Eunice said, “We never went to bed mad at each other.”
A mechanic at heart, Blair fell in love with a new car that came out in 1953, the Chevy Corvette. Eventually, he would own and fix up four of these sport cars, including one that took 10 years to complete after bringing its parts back in boxes from an accident elsewhere.
Blair was a co-founder of the Midwest Early Corvette Club of which numerous members came to Friday’s party.
So did officials of the South Omaha American Legion post that congratulated him for his 40 years of membership.
Besides the restoration of Corvettes, Blair also enjoyed hunting, though it was once a painful hobby when shooting chickens for food on the farm.
“He bit into a piece of buckshot and broke a tooth,” Gaylia said. “That was the end of shooting chickens.”
Eunice added, “He love to make model planes and did leather work.”
Blair was employed at Armour’s Packing Plant for 33 years.
Eunice said her husband’s mother passed away just three months shy of her 100th birthday.
“Longevity runs in the family,” she said.