Chandler man set to reach the century mark - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler man set to reach the century mark

July 19th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
Chandler man set to reach the century mark

By Paul Maryniak
Executive Editor

He is part of a rapidly diminishing breed of men, a member of the Greatest Generation, though when you ask him what thought comes to mind when he looks back on his days as a telegraph operator in the European theater during World War II. Floyd Casey without hesitation says:

“The weather.”

“The weather was so damn cold,” recalled Floyd, who becomes a centenarian on July 20 and already is the oldest resident at the Sunrise of Chandler assisted living community. “You couldn’t think every time you went out the door in the wintertime and summertime was so hot you couldn’t breathe.”

But Floyd survived not just the weather but every bullet and shell the Germans could fling against his units in major WWII clashes like the Battle of the Ardennes, the Battle of Central Europe, and the Battle of Rhineland – all designated by the War Department in 1945 as Bronze Service Star campaigns.

Floyd and his son, Larry Casey of Ahwatukee, share a history of combat service to the country, though separated by more than a quarter of a century.

Larry was a helicopter mechanic and crew chief at a base at Pleiku in the central Highlands of Vietnam from 1969 to 1970 and recalls how “we were getting shot at every day” – a stressful time during which his weight dropped from 230 to 155 pounds.

He exudes a pride in his dad’s service as well as a son’s love. He jokes how all the recalls how he often took his dad along on golf outings when Floyd lived with him and his wife Dianne.

Floyd moved to Florida after his wife passed away from cancer in 1985 and lived there until 2017, when he moved to Ahwatukee to live with Larry and his wife Dianne.

But after three years or so, Floyd decided he wanted the camaraderie and companionship of people his own age and so he moved to Sunrise at Chandler, where Larry has become as popular with the staff as his dad is as a result of his regular visits.

Indeed, as Larry plans a small parade and picnic at Sunrise at Chandler next Wednesday, June 20 – Floyd’s birthday – he made sure to invite the care home’s entire staff.

The staff already has arranged its own special tribute to Floyd, and will host a small formal presentation by the Quilts of Honor Foundation on his birthday for a presentation of a special handmade quilt honoring Floyd for his service.

The youngest of three children who got part of his formal education in a one-room schoolhouse in the Finger Lakes Region of New York, Floyd was a 20-year-old sales clerk for the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. who had recently married his high school sweetheart at the time he enlisted in the Army in October 1941.

He eventually became a Radio Operator 740, eventually winning promotion to Tech Sergeant 4th Class after becoming proficient in both American and Morse Code as well as telegraph and typewriter skills.

Those skills were not completely new to him: he had acquired a foundation in them as a Boy Scout in his small Finger Lakes Region hometown of Addison, New York.

But his Army duty was not without hardship and danger.

After getting conditioned for cold weather in training camps in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan, he was shipped to the European Theater – “it took 14 days to get there and only three to come back on the Queen Elizabeth,” he said.

He spent hours each day with a five-man radio communications team relaying and fielding messages between various Allied outposts, working “as long as you could stay awake.”

One day during the Battle of the Bulge, he was in the back of a canvas-covered transport when “a very big piece of metal” crashed through the canvas and “slammed into the radio and smashed it to bits,” he said. “We had to go back and get all new radios.”

During that same battle, he recalled, at some points “we were all huddled together and could hear the shells” without knowing exactly where they were coming from. He was grateful he could hear them he said, because the conventional wisdom of the battlefront was “if you can’t hear them before you see them, it’s too late.”

For his service, Floyd received the American Service Medal; European African Middle Eastern Service Medal; Good Conduct Medal and was honorably discharged in October 1945.

By then the first of his five children was close to turning 5 and as his family grew, he eventually left A&P, where he had risen to a manager position, and became a switchman for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in Elmira, New York.

His late wife, Norma, and their five children – Larry is the middle child – lived in a small house in Elmira. New York, until 1959 before they moved to Horseheads, New York, to work at a Westinghouse plant, where he was one of the first men in the country to work on cathode ray tubes used in cameras for outer-space travel, specifically the moon landing.

Floyd and Norma’s five children have given him 18 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and one great, great grandchild.

Floyd seems to take turning a century old in stride.

A football and track-and-field star in high school, he still exercises most days, using 5-pound weights to do arm curls. But he misses fishing and golf – he was pretty good at both, he said.

He attributes his longevity to “all the vitamins and minerals I took” when he and his wife were distributors for a health supplements company.

He still keeps up on current events and marvels at all the changes and advances in so many facets of society that he has seen.

Maybe that’s why when asked what the biggest difference he sees between today and years gone by, he seemed a little startled at the mind-boggling nature of the question and then simply replied, “Everything is different.”