About 50-60 people gathered at the Pine Island Moose Lodge in St. James City recently to celebrate Pine Island resident Guy Glinski's 100th birthday.
In the background, ta deejay played music that was popular over the last 100 years - "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," "Sweet Adeline" and "Happy Days Are Here Again.' There was a birthday cake with "100 Years" on it and at the center of attention, Glinski wearing his hat marked 100 Proof!
Glinski was born in the small village of Mattoon, Wis., Aug. 30, 1913. His family consisted of his parents, two brothers and two sisters. Mattoon, population 500, was a lumber town and many of the men in the town were connected with the lumber business.
The year Glinski was born, 1913, Woodrow Wilson became president, the New York Giants football team signed Jim Thorpe, the IRS began collecting Income tax, Henry Ford instituted the assembly line, the heavyweight champion of the World was Jack Johnson, Charles Chaplin was just beginning his film career and World War I wouldn't begin for another year.
When Glinski was 15, he left home and traveled to the Dakotas, hobo-style. Riding the rails, he traveled extensively throughout the country. This was during the Great Depression and jobs were hard to come by. He made his way by playing baseball, as a lumberjack and auto worker.
Once the Great Depression ended, Glinski worked as a carpenter for the next 30-35 years. Sometime in the 1960s, he retired and moved to Southwest Florida with his wife Hazel. Sadly Hazel died in 1987.
For his 90th birthday, Glinski decided to jump out of an airplane. It was a day the centenarian still remembers well.
"I read an article in the newspaper about an 86-year-old woman that made a tandem skydive and decided I wanted to do it," he said. "It was about a week after my 90th birthday and I was tethered to an instructor when we jumped from 13,000 feet - it was very exciting. We were in free fall for about a minute or two and then the chute opened. I guess it took about five or six minutes to reach the ground. Once we were on the ground I could only come up with a few words. 'Pretty cool, pretty cool.'"
The story of Glinski's jump made the national news.
"I understand that the oldest person to skydive is 101 and 4 months," Glinski said. "I plan on breaking the record when I'm 102."
Along with the 50-60 people attending the birthday party was a great-great-niece through marriage. Ann Granath and her friend, Kelly Sidebottom, made the 11-hour trip from Palmer, Alaska, to attend Glinski's party.
"It was a long trip traveling from Alaska, but it was worth it. At first we only spoke with Guy on the phone but coming here and meeting him is really exciting. He's so full of life and just fun to be around," Granath said.
In addition to the deejay, music was provided by Guy and his five-member harmonica band.
"I learned to play the harmonica in 1920 when I was 7 years old," Glinski said. "The very first tune I learned how to play was 'Red River Valley' and I've been playing ever since. Now I play with a group called the Fort Myers Harmonica Band. There are five of us members between the ages of 80 to 100."
The evening wrapped up with several tunes by Glinski and the Fort Myers Harmonica Band; they played "Harbor Lights," "Somewhere My Love" and "Among My Souvenirs."