World War II veteran Jack Bevan turned 100 years old in April. His advice for a long life? “Be positive. And drink good but not expensive whiskey. Not more than one a day,” he said this week.
According to US Department of Veterans Affairs statistics, about 167,000 of the 16 million Americans who served in World War II are alive in 2023 - that’s only 1 in every 100 veterans – and Jack is one of them. Though there are older veterans, Bevan reaching centenarian status is big news for his family and friends.
“Resilience got him through the military and kept him going through a long and successful life, overcoming challenges with a very positive attitude,” says his daughter Susan Bevan. “The stories he tells of his military service are not the horror stories, but the funny stories interacting with his troops. He looks forward. He doesn't look back.”
The son of British immigrants, Jack Bevan served in the Army during World War II and was drafted a year after the Army hired him in the forestry service to take care of the mountain lookouts. While his older brother also served in the military, Jack didn’t come from a military family. His parents were from Canada.
After basic training in Texas, he was sent to Europe during the war on the Queen Elizabeth. They snuck into Scotland and eventually became part of the liberation of Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria. He left the Army in 1946, a year after the War ended, and after he completed that extra year to help distribute excess supplies, including liquor, for everyone in the war-torn area.
According to Jack, he stayed in the Army after the war because he did not have as many “battle stars” as others who served before him, so he was one of the later soldiers to be released as the number of battle stars was given priority. “It was only fair,” he said.
“He remembers the names of the guys he served with over 80 years ago and never saw again,” says Susan. He left the Army with the rank of Sergeant.
After service, Jack graduated from the University of Washington on the GI bill, where he earned a BS in Forestry. He went on to own his own lumber and plywood business and stayed active. Though he’s stopped hunting these days, he still fishes and played a few holes of golf days before his 100th birthday.
Ever an outdoorsman, he was a hiking and skiing enthusiast. Now he walks with a walker or a walking stick.
“But he keeps looking forward. He’s always planning ahead and I think that’s the secret to his longevity. He always has something to look forward to, even if it’s chocolate on his birthday,” Susan says. He’s currently planning a fishing trip this August.
Jack Bevan has 4 kids, 7 grandkids, and 9 great grandchildren. He’s lived in the same house for 66 years and has been married to his lovely bride Jo for 72 years. His 100th birthday was April 2, 2023.