FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS, Ill. (KMOV.com) -- Customers at the Fairview Heights McDonald's saw something rare Monday morning: A birthday celebration.
However, the party wasn’t the usual affair. It was more than a century in the making.
Retired Air Force Colonel Maurice Lee was surrounded by balloons and presented with a cake; all a celebration of his 102nd birthday.
“Usually it's the kids, but I think even at 102 you're young at heart,” said McDonald’s customer service manager Susan Radden.
Lee, a World War II veteran, finished the last few years of his service at Scott Air Force Base.
“I was in Africa during the war,” Lee said. “I stayed in service after the war for 30 years.”
After retiring from duty, Lee stayed in the area near his last post.
He is something of a living history lesson. While fighting in a war that defined the shape of the world, he met his wife, a flight nurse, in France.
“They got married in Paris because they happened to run into each other there after the war,” said Lee’s son Kevin.
When a hurricane was ravaging the east coast, Lee was once delayed in Goose Bay in Canada where another pilot was also waiting out the storm. That pilot was Charles Lindbergh.
“He was very quiet.,” Lee recalled. “He didn't have much to say but he talked to us about his trips, his trip across the Atlantic.”
Several years ago, Lee started coming to the McDonald's and met with others who are part of what they call a "senior coffee group."
"Colonel Lee? He's great,” said Robert Willeford, a member of the group. “He's sharp as a tack at his age. He's a great man.”
“He's still living at home on his own,” Lee’s son Kevin added. “He was driving until he turned 100, then he said he could afford a cab and so he wasn't driving any more.”
When you reach a certain age people look to you for guidance. News 4 asked Colonel Lee if he had any advice for younger generations.
“Tell the truth, like most people don't,” he said.
News 4 was invited back for his party next year. We said we'd be there.