Edwards earns fitting celebration for elusive 100th birthday


Bill Edwards celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 11, Veterans Day.

Courtesy of Teri Brant

It took Bill Edwards a century to finally get his first real birthday party on Veterans Day — a fitting birth date for the World War II survivor.

“My parents didn’t make a fuss about my birthday. I got presents sometimes, but my mother would always bake a pound cake,” he said.

On Veterans Day, more than 75 people, most fellow residents of Buena Vida Estates in West Melbourne, gathered for Edwards’ patriotic bash.

“I shook a lot of hands and was kissed by a lot of women,” he said.

He met both of his late wives square dancing.

“I’m not looking for another,” he added wryly.

His red, white and blue helium balloons had deflated at the foot of his bed, but his enthusiasm hadn’t, days later. Wearing his ever-present veterans’ cap sporting military and Masonic pins and medals, he reviewed a 3-inch pile of cards from his easy chair.

“I have a large portion of leftover cake that I’m going to share at dinner.”

But he kept two pound cakes from friends who knew his favorite.

Edwards enlisted at 21 and was maintenance crew chief for B-17 bombers in England. Once discharged, he maintained airplanes as a civilian at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va. and, in 1951, at the new Patrick Air Force Base. He retired in 1975 as a procurement analyst at RCA.

Edwards drove until he was 96 and walked unaided until about a year ago. He has few complaints about life as a 100 year old — his coughing spasms caused by a bronchial condition, and “I can’t read the fine print.”

Gwendolyn Rose, a certified nurse assistant who cares for Edwards, called him “reserved, easygoing and very independent.”

Glenda Mazza, the director of health services, said she has attended several Buena Vida celebrations for residents turning 100. “His was the most well-attended and best. He’s well known and one of the kindest sweethearts you’ll meet.”