TULSA, Oklahoma (Tulsa World ) — The wear and tear that comes with a long life has taken a toll on Dale Wear.
But it’s only been since a recent fall that he’s felt like it’s really catching up with him.
“I’ve had falls before. But this time I’m just not recovering as quickly,” said the Tulsa resident, who fell in his yard last month and broke a small bone in his lower leg.
While still on the mend from that, Wear has good reason, he knows, to feel fortunate overall.
On Sunday, the World War II Navy veteran will officially mark a milestone birthday — his 100th.
Because of the pandemic, Wear won’t be having a party, he said. His family is choosing to play it safe.
And minimal fanfare suits him just fine.
“It’s just another day,” Wear said.
“I guess you could call (turning 100) an achievement,” he said, adding that he’s happy about making the century mark.
“But it’s got its downsides.”
For one, he said, “you can’t do as much as you used to.”
For another, you’ve outlived a lot of people.
“I was an only child, but we had a fairly large family,” he said. “Every one of them has passed on.”
Also gone are most of Wear’s friends from the former Submarine Veterans of WWII organization.
The group, of which he was a past state commander, met in Muskogee at the USS Batfish memorial, and was once 80 strong, he said.
“There are just a couple of guys left,” he said.
‘What’s Pearl Harbor?’
Wear’s connection to the Navy submarine community is a source of pride for him.
He started his service on a destroyer escort, but later switched to the submarine service.
He was assigned to a submarine tender — a ship that provided vital maintenance and other services for submarines at sea or in port.
He said he now regrets he didn’t serve on an actual sub. But he’s proud to have supported the brave men who did.
Wear can’t forget how it all started.
Employed by a service station in his hometown of Sallisaw, he was at work one Sunday afternoon in December 1941 when a car he recognized drove up.
“It was a local banker and his wife,” he said. “And they said the Japanese had just attacked Pearl Harbor.”
Wear’s response, like many at the time, was “‘Pearl Harbor? What’s Pearl Harbor?’
“I didn’t have any idea,” he said.
That news would shortly after change his life. With the U.S. drawn into the war, Wear decided to volunteer for the Navy.
His initiation into sailing life would come aboard the Edgar G. Chase, a destroyer escort.
He still remembers the time, early on at sea, when the mere smell of food from the mess hall, albeit a good smell, made him sick.
“It sent me to the rail topside,” he said, adding that he threw up into the sea.
“But I finally got fairly used to” sea-going.
His decision to move to submarine service was influenced by a crew mate and friend. “His name was Bill Ross and he was from Dallas. And he was just gung-ho to go to a submarine.”
“I can’t say I was as gung-ho as Bill,” added Wear. “But I liked the idea all right.”
As it turned out, Wear would serve aboard submarine tenders, in support of submarines.
“We could do minor (repairs) and bring supplies,” said Wear, adding that subs with more serious problems would have to return to Pearl Harbor or California.
He would start with the Howard W. Gilmore stationed in the Marshall Islands, and finish his service aboard the Bushnell at Midway.
‘Just live day by day’
Wear still lives in the home he shared with his late wife, Irene. He’s been there for nearly 50 years.
His daughter lives in Mustang, but spends a good amount of her time with him.
Wear believes it’s mainly because of her efforts that he’s been able to stay out of assisted living.
Since some health problems several years ago — he had two heart attacks and survived colon cancer — he’s tried to take care of himself. One of the best decisions he ever made, he said, was to quit smoking.
Karen Srotyr, his daughter, said after his recent fall, “the hospital doctor was determined to put him in a rehab center for two weeks. And he said, ‘No, I’m going home.’”
And home is where Wear will be for his birthday.
If no party, Srotyr intends to at least treat her dad to a cake.
“He loves chocolate,” she said.
Wear doesn’t have any advice, he said, on how to make it to 100. If there’s a secret, he’s not sure what it is.
“I have no secrets,” he said. “I just live day by day.”
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.