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WWII veteran turns 100; family has party in PA

100th birthday (MatissDzelve/Pixabay)

Esther Borascius said her father, John “Carl” Hafer, set a goal to reach his 100th birthday.

The Tamaqua native accomplished that goal Wednesday, and about 90 family and friends celebrated that milestone Saturday at a party for the man his daughter described as “remarkable” at the Deer Lake & West Brunswick Fire Company in Deer Lake.

Hafer, who was born Sept. 21, 1922, at a home in Tamaqua, said he knew that something was up when it came to the party. His children believed that he was under the impression he was going out to eat.

The observance lasted from 1 to 5 p.m. and included people talking about the Navy veteran of World War II and a slide show presentation of family photos. Carl even put on a hat that he received as a gift, noting the milestone age he reached. He also ate chocolate cake, his favorite.

A Catholic, Carl even received an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis.

“It’s great that everybody was able to make it,” Greg Hafer, one of his children, said.

No matter the distance, those in attendance came to honor the man who means so much to them. State Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124, Rush Twp., representing Schuylkill, Berks and Carbon counties, and Sen. David G. Argall, R-29, Rush Twp., were there not only for their official capacities, but because they also knew Carl as young men. Both gave him citations recognizing his birthday and his dedication to the community, with involvement in the Boy Scouts and other civic organizations.

Before Argall was announced, Ted Hafer talked about his father and how he liked to sing at Weston Senior Living-Pinebrook near Orwigsburg. He said his father enjoyed living there for the last few years.

Knowles and Argall had fond memories of Carl.

“I don’t remember ever not knowing him,” Knowles said.

“He changed my life,” Argall said of “Mr. Hafer,” who accepted him into Boy Scout Cub Pack 72 in 1966.

Argall said he would not have had all the experiences he did later in life if he didn’t have that initial experience as a Cub Scout.

Insights into a long life

Carl said he has nothing that he would have done differently in his life. Despite his age, he was feeling “fantastic” Saturday — a common answer, his children say.

He has vision and hearing problems but is in relatively good health, his children said.

Carl credits his long life to a good relationship with his doctor. He enjoys Pennsylvania sports teams. When it’s football season, he goes to bed around midnight; otherwise, it is 9 p.m.


In addition to his daughter, Carl has three sons: John Carl Jr., deceased; and Ted, 76, and Greg, 64. He was married to Jean Hafer for 76 years. She died in 2017.

Esther described her father as “remarkable” and a good man.

Greg talked about his father at length in an interview Friday. He said Carl graduated from Tamaqua Area High School in 1940. He was drafted into the Navy and enlisted Dec. 28, 1944. His rank was a seaman first class, and he was honorably discharged April 10, 1946. Carl never served overseas during WWII, but he provided training to those who had. He went to training in Atlanta, Georgia, and then was assigned to Naval Air Station Quonset Point, Rhode Island, which has since been decommissioned. While there, he taught pilots how to fly in a flight simulator.

After his career in the military, he worked as a laborer for a local railroad, which Greg believed was the Reading Railroad at the time. His second and last job was with Western Electric in Allentown, from where he retired in 1985 after 34 years. He didn’t apply for veterans medical benefits until he was in his 90s.

“He didn’t feel right doing it,” because he didn’t serve overseas, Greg said, adding that Carl also had good health benefits.

Greg said his father always thought of the family first.

Growing up, his dad wasn’t one to show his emotions. However, as he got older and had grandchildren to share his life with the emotion showed, Greg said.

He said his dad is happiest when family is together.

“He’s a good dad,” Greg said.


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