VENTURA, Calif. - It's not every day you can wish a man Happy Birthday on his 104th year of life. Today, on Thursday, Feb. 18, our community can bestow that honor on Richard Keller of Ventura.
He also happens to be my grandfather.
I offer up a word to the wise -- careful how you choose your phrases.
"Living 83 years in Century 20, I have accepted much of the Century. But also rejected some of it," Keller shared in a personal email. "The very popular Century 21 words, 'You know,' 'Wow,' and, 'That's a great question,' are not in my vocabulary."
Keller credits three key things for contributing to the "great life" he's had, now at the age of 104: Much success and some failures; Many great contacts with people, especially "those from Venus" (his endearing reference to women); And, many creative projects.
As an engineer, he helped design braking systems for jetliners. His entire life has been 'hands on.'
Keller learned to drive at the age of eight. By the age of nine he was operating a Model-D John Deere tractor.
Keller spent the first 21 years of his life on a farm in North Central Oklahoma. In 1938, two years after the end of the Dust Bowl, he rode his Harley Davidson "on old 66" traveling through Needles to enter California.
"I had to prove I had a destination and money to get there. I received a card that permitted me to be in California."
Among Keller's many accomplishments, which includes his service with United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), he is particularly proud of two. He learned to fly an Aeronca K plane powered by a 40 HP engine and, flew the USAAF B-25 with two 16 HP engines.
"We were trained for the 1945 and 1946 invasion of Japan if the bomb failed."
Like many servicemen who returned from the war, he fell in love with cars and hot rodding.
"I drove over 20 cars, pickups and three motorcycles close to one million miles. Six traffic tickets and three warnings."
Keller and his second wife, Elaine, spent the past decade establishing a private museum in Ventura. They call it the 'Museum of the 20th Century West of Tulsa,' and hope to open it up to the public and students as an educational and historic resource. It features icons and technology, from cowbells and antique phones to small rooms full of cameras, model cars and planes and, typewriters. Keller called those "predecessors" to the now ubiquitous iPad. He also has more than a dozen old, classic cars.
The museum is the couple's tribute to everything in the 20th Century that required hands-on.
The NewsChannel team wishes Richard Keller a Happy Birthday on his 104th milestone!