WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday, reveals his secrets and ‘lifetime of inspiration’

A World War II veteran in Arkansas reached his 100th birthday one day after Veterans Day.

Harold Chilton of Fayetteville, Arkansas, celebrated the milestone on Saturday, Nov. 12, with about 60 of his close family and friends.

“I’m as surprised as anybody that I’ve come this far,” Chilton told Fox News Digital during a phone interview.

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“It’s by the grace of God, I’ll tell you that. And I don’t know why,” he continued.

Chilton said his family hosted a birthday party for him and guests arrived “from all over” with cards and well wishes.

A special 100-layer cake was prepared in Chilton’s honor, and he entertained guests with his piano playing.

“I appreciate that they did this,” Chilton said. “We had a good time.”

Chilton was born in 1922 in Plainfield, New Jersey. Music has long been his passion. 

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As a child, he learned how to play the harmonica and ukulele, then moved along to the accordion, guitar and piano. 

After high school, he became a member of a local band that performed up and down the East Coast.

When he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chilton was assigned to the Marine Band.

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“I was surprised,” Chilton said, noting he underwent arduous training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina.

“I had the best score in rifle,” he recalled. “[But] I was not sent to one of those assault camps.”

Chilton learned to play the French horn. He played the instrument when the Marine Band deployed overseas and was tasked with performing at parades and other military events.

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In the three years he served, Chilton worked in New Caledonia, a French island territory in the South Pacific; Guadalcanal, a southern island in the Solomon Islands, also in the South Pacific; and Okinawa, a southern prefecture in Japan.

During intense battles, bandsmen were often tasked with being stretcher bearers, Chilton said.

“I can’t think of anything more dangerous in a battle than to be a stretcher bearer,” Chilton said. “What do they do? They go out on the battlefield, where men are dying, and they put these injured men on stretchers at risk of their own lives. Many of them died doing this.”

“I guess the bandsmen eventually did pave their way,” he continued.

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Chilton completed 35 months of service and was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps as a sergeant. 

He returned to his New Jersey home in December 1945 at age 23. 

After the war, Chilton worked as a professional musician and schoolteacher.

He went on to get a master’s degree in ancient Greek at the University of Southern California — a degree that came in handy when he became a Christian pastor and would review the New Testament.

In 1950, Chilton wed Loisruth Chilton. The couple were married for 62 years. 

“The Lord called her home 10 years ago,” Chilton said. “She taught many women’s groups and Bible studies, and she was a very godly person.”

For a time, the Chiltons served as missionaries in the Philippines, and they returned to the U.S. in the 1960s.

“When I was in the Marine Corps, I was a Christian in name only. I had no relationship with God,” Chilton said. 

“I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but as I look back on it, well — there’s no better way to put it than I see the hand of God on my life.” 

Chilton and his wife moved from Las Vegas to Arkansas in 1997.

Chilton said he believes he might have reached 100 because he has many hobbies that keep him busy.

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He’s recorded over 2,200 songs and sends CDs to family members and friends

He also writes letters often and has kept a journal.

Chilton said that before the COVID-19 pandemic, he would play instruments at local homes for the elderly.

As of late, he gets physical and mental exercise by walking around town and attending virtual church.

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“I think it’s wise to keep as healthy as you can and stay active,” Chilton said. 

“I’m not a great meat eater or anything like that,” Chilton said. 

“If you just put a little peanut butter on a roll or cracker, I’ll be happy.”

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