Tom Shafer gave a talk a while ago at the Gillie Senior Recreation Center about his experiences during World War II, but he had not gotten that far along when his allotted hour was up.

"So I haven't told them how I won the war," Shafer said.

He didn't get to that part in a recent interview, either, but that is understandable. When Thomas Christopher Shafer looks back at his life, he has a lot of ground to cover.

The Northland resident turned 101 May 26.

Shafer received a certificate of recognition from U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Jefferson Township) upon reaching the milestone.

"Thomas Shafer has not only accomplished an amazing feat of reaching the age of 101, but he is also a shining example of the best of what our country and community stands for," the certificate reads. "Mr. Shafer is a member of the 'Greatest Generation,' a devoted father of three and a supportive family man, indeed a hero to the nation and to our central Ohio community."

Shafer also is part of a rapidly dwindling group of people.

According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, 372 veterans per day are dying and only 620,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II were alive in 2016.

Friends frequently ask Shafer about his longevity.

"I've thought about that," he said. "People have asked me. There are two answers I have. One is I don't do today what I can put off to tomorrow, and that gets a favorable response.

"The other is several people have told me I have more luck than most people."

Luck has indeed played a role in Shafer's long life, beginning in 1918 when he was 2 and survived an influenza pandemic that claimed the life of his father.

His luck seemed to have rubbed off on others during his time as a crew chief for the U.S. Army Air Forces in England, according to 85-year-old Ernie Frump of Pickerington, a longtime friend of Shafer.

"He never sent a plane out on a mission that didn't come back," Frump said. "That was amazing. Officers wanted him to be their crew chief because they felt like they had a better chance of getting back."

Shafer was born in Columbus but grew up in Gallia County where his mother moved following the death of his father.

He came back to his hometown in the mid-1930s "to seek my fame and fortune," Shafer said.

"I didn't know anybody in Columbus and I had a hard time making it that first summer," Shafer said.

He did mostly odd jobs at first before finally landing at Buckeye Insurance, a job he would hold, both before and after the war, until his retirement in 1981.

That was where Shafer and Frump met.

"I've known him since I was about 25," Frump said. "We worked at Buckeye Insurance together, so I've known him for more than 60 years. He had a long history of working at the one company and meeting one lady and living with one lady until she died, his wife.

"He's just a great person. He just lived so good and so long and he's still alive and he's just a very unusual person."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

@KevinParksTW1