Kiss 102 goodbye

Internet-loving Cecil Windsor to turn 103 Feb. 13

“I can tell you when I realized I was getting old,” said Cecil Windsor. “Up through my 80s and 90s, I went right on about my business. One day I drove to the grocery store and was at the checkout counter. I looked at the calendar and thought, ‘Boy howdy. Today’s my birthday and I’m 99!’ That’s when I thought, ‘I’m getting old!’”

The cheerful Texas native has been living at NHC in Farragut for the last year, and on Feb. 13 will celebrate his 103rd birthday. He’ll be surrounded by family: his son, Stephen Windsor, who owns Windsor Construction in Knoxville; grandkids and great-grandkids from Morristown, and his son Cecil Jr., a retired civil engineer who lives in Denver. Unfortunately, Cecil’s wife of 75 years, Bernice, passed away six months ago.

Cecil is one of about eight permanent residents at NHC. He may be in a wheelchair now, but he’s as sharp as ever. He has a computer in his room to check his e-mail, read the news and even play some solitaire.

Stephen comes by twice a day to visit his dad, who he said is the perfect dad.

9“My dad worked hard all his life,” said Stephen, “but the flipside of that is he spent a lot of time with us. He headed up the Scout program and helped a lot of boys. He took my brother and I hunting. He took us fishing. My uncle gave him a boat that had been used in the oil fields in Louisiana. He refinished it and put a motor on it. Dad taught us how to ski, but he’s never been on a ski in his life. We were skiing by the time were 5 or 6.”

Cecil remembers his own dad as very strict and very busy, a good man, but someone who didn’t know how to handle children.

“I said to myself, ‘If I ever have boys, I want to get acquainted with them.’ And I did.”

Cecil says life has been interesting, and if he had it to do over, he probably wouldn’t do anything differently.

He was born in 1914 in a small East Texas town of about 1,000, the seventh of nine children. His father had one of the first auto dealerships in the state and, consequentially, Cecil grew up in the repair shop.

“By the time I was in high school, I was rebuilding engines,” he recalled. “Having a bent for mechanical things, I became the projectionist for the local theater, which had silent movies at the time.”

He can’t remember the names of any silent movies, but has no trouble remembering the first color movie he ever saw—“Cleopatra.”

He went on to graduate with a teaching degree in math and taught high school for six years during the depression.

“Then the war (WWI) came along and I worked for the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation for a year in California. Then I thought, ‘I need to get involved in this war thing’ and went back to Texas and volunteered for the military. They looked at my transcript and I was asked to become a meteorologist. I spent three-and-a-half years teaching meteorology to pilots.” When asked if it will snow in a few days, Cecil replied in true meteorologist fashion: “It might. It very well could.”

Out of the military, the family moved to Yoakum County, Tex. Cecil combined his math and meteorological skills to partner in a seismic exploration company for oil and gas.

“We used the technology to find oil wells,” he said. “We could recognize where to drill. It’s the same things as a weather map, except it’s below ground.”

Fifteen years later he went to work for the Texas Department of Transportation where he helped set up a safety program to keep workers and the public safe in construction areas. Eventually he was promoted to internal review.

“I had full power to audit any procedure in the district. That was a most responsible job and it was the one I enjoyed the most.”

He retired from the highway department at 70, but was not content to just watch TV. (“No sir! Not on your life!” he said.) Instead, he set up a business at home and for the next 20 years –until he couldn’t see well--did taxes for small businesses.

He spent 50 years in Yoakum County, and along the way won several church and civic awards. In 2011 the Yoakum Chamber of Commerce recognized him with the Lifetime Community Service Award and in 2014, to celebrate his 100th birthday, the Yoakum mayor declared his Feb. 13 “Cecil Windsor Day.”

Cecil has two grandsons, one granddaughter, four great-grandsons, one great-granddaughter and a great-grandchild on the way. He credits his longevity to genes that run in his mother’s family—his grandmother, mother and sisters have lived into their 90s.

“I never thought about how long I’d live,” he said. “That’s something that never bothered me. Now I’m 103, practically.”