World War II vet celebrates 100th birthday


World War II vet Henry Thomas recently celebrated his 100th birthday. <i>SENIOR LIFE Katie Parsons</i>Henry Thomas has always loved music. He joined a country music band at the age of 12, playing the banjo and guitar. Now over a century old, Thomas still tries to find ways to listen to live music and dance whenever he gets the chance.

“It’s better than sitting here and watching my toenails grow,” he said.

Thomas celebrated his 100th birthday on August 28 and fully admits that he has lived those decades well. 

At the age of 26 he left his job at a manufacturing plant in Hall County, Georgia to join the Third Armored Division to fight in World War II. By Thomas’ account, he didn’t do “anything special” but he admits he was involved in five battles, including the infamous Battle of the Bulge. He was also part of a team that liberated a concentration camp in Germany, though at the time he did not realize the true significance of the act. 

“No one knew what had really happened in those concentration camps, not at the time we were liberating them,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t until later that we all learned how many people had died and the other horrors that took place there.”

Thomas arrived back in the United States just before Thanksgiving in 1945 and was greeted by wife Mary. Their union lasted 73 years until she died in 2006.

The couple moved to Brevard County in 1957 and Henry Thomas spent more than a decade working in maintenance at Kennedy Space Center. He retired at age 60 and along with his wife did a lot of traveling. One of their favorite places to visit was Gatlinburg, Tenn. 

“I’ve been retired almost as long as I worked. It’s been fun,” Thomas said. 

After the loss of his wife, a friend of Thomas’ suggested he look into the retirement apartments at Westminster Asbury in Cocoa. After taking a look around, Thomas was sold on the idea. He credits his new address with keeping him youthful.

“Moving here has been the best thing, really,” he said. “There is something to do all the time. They keep us all very busy.”