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Public invited to celebrate local’s 100th birthday

Family and friends of R.B. “Tete” Stabler are inviting the entire city to swing by Walnut Street Church of Christ’s fellowship hall, say hello and enjoy some cake and punch during his 100th birthday celebration Sunday.

Rebecca Cauthen, a friend of the family and one of the several people helping to plan Stabler’s birthday party Sunday, said that their appreciation for Mr. Tete is so great that they didn’t want to keep him to themselves.

“The party is open to the public,” Cauthen said. “Anyone who wants to come by and congratulate him can.  We’re all really happy that he’s still a part of our lives, our community and our congregation. And he has a lot to be thankful for.  He is a very blessed man, and he’s just one of the sweetest and good-natured people you’ll ever meet.”

According to Cauthen, just one of the many ways Stabler is blessed is to have experienced two lengthy marriages in his lifetime—the first lasting 43 years and the second, to his wife Eleanor, that just celebrated its 31st anniversary.

“I think I remember Mrs. Eleanor telling me that when they got married, they’d have at least another good 10 years together to be happy,” Cauthen added.  “And now it’s been 31.”

Stabler’s century-long lifespan has encompassed a drastic change not only to the United States, but the world at large.

Stabler, born June 12, 1917, was one-and-a-half years old when World War I concluded.

He lived through the influenza epidemic of 1918, which killed 20 million people worldwide as it razed the planet unchecked.  Though those tragedies affected the entire planet, it also made an impact in Stabler’s life by claiming the mother of his dear friend, Frank.

“Mr. Jim, Frank’s daddy, remarried and had another son by his second wife,” Stabler recalled.

“When I was growing up, if you got sick, you were given castor oil and that worked through your system and made you pass whatever ailed you. Mama always said passing all that stuff meant you were going to feel better soon.”

Stabler was an adolescent when the stock market crashed in 1929, but he said that his family was so poor that they didn’t realize there was a depression. 

One worldwide event that proved too difficult to overlook, however, was World War II.  Because he was working on his cousin’s farm at the war’s start, he had the option to defer, but he left the job anyway knowing that he would be drafted.

“I am glad I served in the Army,” Stabler said.  “People had reason to be deferred, but I was glad to go.”

He served aboard one of the troop transfer ships headed for the invasion of Japan at the war’s conclusion when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“They were predicting an 80-percent casualty rate for the invasion,” Stabler said.

He heard about the pair of atomic bombs being dropped while on a ship en route to Japan.  He went on to serve in the occupation force in Japan following the war’s end.

Stabler saw the transition from mule-and-buggy transportation on dirt roads to interstate highways dense with new-age automobiles powered by the sun.

Stabler is currently older than 99.98 percent of the US population.  He is exactly as old as MoonPies, Books-A-Million and the first edition of the World Book Encyclopedia.

In fact, the company responsible for MoonPies was contacted, and they’ll be contributing to Stabler’s birthday celebration by adding a MoonPie baseball cap to his already sizeable hat collection.

Whether its MoonPie or a random passerby, Stabler’s family and friends are inviting all to celebrate a life well lived.

“We just want to celebrate him,” Cauthen said.  “We just want to celebrate his life, and what he’s meant to us.”