The cakes awaited the celebration. Final prayers were said just next to the dining room, with a classic “Happy Birthday” song ringing through the chapel.
Bob Hall sat with a smile on his face.
Members of the First Congregation Church of Naples prepared a party for their oldest congregant, who turned 100 just a few days before.
“He’s a very special person in our congregation,” church moderator Pam Toorock said.
Hall first came to the church when he moved down to the area in 2009, leaving his home in Middleton, Indiana.
“There are a lot of great people here,” he said, holding a stack of birthday cards.
His daughter Emma Hall followed her father down South.
“He’s always a happy guy,” she said, “never mad, never sad.”
This was all after leaving his mark in World War II.
“I signed up the day I learned of” Pearl Harbor, he said. “We were attacked by the Japanese. It wasn’t like other wars.”
First stop — the .
“They said I was too short,” Hall said, laughing. “The (Navy) said I needed to sign up for six years. I knew the war would be over by then.”
All that left was the Army. After finishing boot camp, Hall sailed on a Liberty ship through the South Pacific on the theater’s famous island-hopping campaign. First stop — New Guinea.
“I was a scout,” he said. “I went ahead of everyone and found the Japanese machine gun nests and artillery, then (would) go back and report to the higher-ups.”
How did he get stuck with the job of going, alone, into the jungles of South Pacific islands?
“I volunteered,” he said. “Someone needed to do it.”
Frank Hall, no relation, is Bob Hall’s friend from the church.
“It was different back then,” Frank Hall said. “There was something that needed to be done. Bob knew that.”
The Philippines was Bob Hall’s last stop before the Japanese declared unconditional surrender.
“It gave me chills,” he said, thinking back to that day. “Then I got on a Liberty ship and went home.”
Bob Hall had three daughters. Only Emma is with him today.
“They’re in a better place now,” he said with damp eyes.
He’s also been married four times, and three times he was widowed.
“The one, I found out, was a lesbian,” he laughed. “She was saying she slept over at a girlfriend’s house. I didn’t think anything of it for a while.”
Now, Bob Hall sat surrounded by people who care for him — a family at the church.
And what is his secret to living for an entire century.
“One shot of whiskey a day,” he said, deadpan. “I still do. Jim Beam.”
(c)2017 the Naples Daily News (Naples, Fla.) — www.naplesnews.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.