George Peter turned 100 on Sept. 22, 2023. But, as he would tell you, “I don’t look a day over 99.”
Peter, a World War II veteran, is American Legion Post 21’s oldest member. And on Friday, as he notched another year, he was the toast of the American Heroes Café at Festival Foods in Kenosha.
After arriving via a tour around town in Post 21’s newly refurbished 40 & 8 Locomotive, Peter was the guest of honor, receiving well wishes from his fellow veterans and proclamations in his honor from County Executive Samantha Kerkman and Mayor John Antaramian.
“We just wanted to come and say, ‘happy birthday,’” Kerkman said. “This is a monumental milestone for you and your family. We know that the World War II veterans like you are part of the Greatest Generation — and I say that every time I get to do this for a World War II veteran — but they are so special.”
Born Sept. 22, 1923, in Mercer, Wis., Peter enlisted in the U.S. Navy on May 10, 1943. After undergoing training on a subchaser, he was transferred to Little Creek, Va., and then off to the Pacific where — among other things — he was present at the Battle of Okinawa in March 1945.
During a leave from service on June 6, 1944 — yes, that June 6, D-Day — Peter married his sweetheart, Dorothy. After the war, they settled in the Chicago area, where he worked for 63 years in the tool-and-die trade, retiring in his 80s. He moved to Kenosha about 20 years ago.
Peters and his late wife had one son, who is now deceased. But on Friday, his granddaughter, Vanessa Blue, and her husband Darren flew in from their home in Washington, D.C., to join the celebration.
“He’s so excited, just the outpouring of love and support,” Blue said. “Everybody loves my grandpa.”
At 100, Peters remains spry. Blue said he lives on his own in a two-story home, with no outside nursing assistance.
Asked of his secret to making it to 100, Peters quipped, “I never got caught.”
“I get these phone calls from telemarketers trying to sell burial insurance,” Peters said. “They would ask, are you between 45 and 80 years old. I’d say, ‘99.’” And then, Peters said, there’s always silence at the end of the line.