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John Carpenter has been a member of Noel Memorial United Methodist Church since 1949, and helped to establish the Food Pantry Ministry.
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John Carpenter will turn 100 years old Sept. 18.
Ninety-nine year old John Carpenter has 120 tomatoes plants this year; the most he’s ever had. While he doesn’t tend them himself anymore, he is right there instructing on how to space them, protect them, and make them yield a rich, plentiful crop; much like his life. On September 18 of this year, Carpenter will reach his 100 year mark, a life carefully planned and yielding a bounty that is showered upon his church, his family and his friends, much like his tomatoes.
Carpenter was born in Minneapolis, Minn., in 1914, the fourth of seven children. From there his family moved to Montana for a one-winter stint at homesteading, where a shortage of coal and temperatures of 40 below in their tar paper shack insulated with sod, proved challenging. They were a hardworking family, in hard times, 10 miles from the nearest town, no electricity or indoor plumbing, like many in the early 1900s.
After a move to Ohio, Carpenter held odd farming-related jobs throughout his high school years, working before school, and in the evenings, and still finding time for basketball. Even though sodas were five cents and hamburgers were a dime, he saved his money for clothes and shoes. Today, he wonders if kids really know the value of a dollar.
Carpenter entered the Army Air Corps after high school with a dream of flying that was cut short when he crashed into a tree during one of his final flights in the training program. He said the only thing hurt was the plane—and his pride. After being grounded, he moved into supply operations while in the military for six years and as a civilian for 38. He has a love of teaching and organizing that served him well throughout his career.
When asked about some of his life’s highlights, he says flying an airplane and being a supply officer for the Supply Squadron at Barksdale. There is slight mention of the Bronze Star and Good Conduct medals among others he was awarded for his time on Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge, typical of a man who is all about giving. On July 12, 2014, he was awarded the French Legion of Honor in a ceremony at Barksdale Air Force Base for his service during World War II. He believes everyone should serve two years in the military, both for the discipline and for the love of your country. “I want it to be remembered that I loved my country.”
His days consist of watching over his garden, doing his own cooking, and spending much-loved time with his children and grandchildren; and he is also an avid bookworm. He played tennis four times a week until he was 92, and he and his wife used to square dance once a week with a group that entertained at different venues such as the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. Music still plays an important part in his daily life.
His church and his volunteering also make up a big part of who he is. He was involved with Cub Scouts and taught 3rd grade Sunday school for 14 years. He has been a member of Noel Memorial United Methodist Church since 1949, and helped to establish the Food Pantry Ministry. “Being in the war, you place different values on different things,” he says of the starving people he often saw during his tours of duty.
When asked about his thoughts on his longevity, he’s quick to list four things he believes helped him reach this point—good sleep, good food, and no drinking or smoking.
“During the war, I didn’t think I would live day to day,” he says, “but I’m hoping to live to 104. I had a good friend who died at 104.” What works for him is to look on the bright side, get up in the morning and thank God for the day. His appreciation of life and optimistic spirit are summed up perfectly in the final stanza of “The Last Leaf” by Oliver Wendell Homes, which he quotes: “And if I should live to be the last leaf upon the tree in the spring, let them smile, as I do now, at the old forsaken bough where I cling.”
By June Dowis