He was born in August 1904 and yesterday, around 4 p.m., he passed away. He was 103 (and a half). He had a full head of snow-white hair and an infectious, gregarious laugh that never failed to draw you in. He was an amazing storyteller and loved his family immensely.
In 1904, the average life expectancy in the United States was 47. Who would have guessed he’d double that, and then add nearly 10 more years to it.
Only 14% of homes in the U.S. had a bathtub, and only 8% had a phone. There were only 144 miles of paved roads in this country, which was fine, because there were only 8,000 cars on the road.
The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower and the average U.S. worker made between $200-$400 a year. Since Arizona, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Hawaii and Alaska had not yet been admitted to the Union, the American flag had only 45 stars. The population of Las Vegas was 30.
The year he was born was also the very first year of the New Year’s celebration in Times Square. There was no ball, but there were fireworks.
When I think of his age, I am amazed. 103 (and a half) is an incredibly, long life. When you examine what the world was like in 1904, the feat of living more than a century crystallizes into something nearly miraculous. The things he has seen – the joys, the sorrows, the wondrous inventions (from computers to squeezable ketchup bottles) — it is simply remarkable.
When he turned 100, we traveled to Indiana for a large family gathering. He sat talking to Mark while Peanut, just 10 months old, looked intently at him. While she doesn’t remember this trip, I’m so glad we took photographs of the two of them together so that someday we can pass his stories on to her and show her the incredible man whose blood runs in her veins.
Tonight, 103 years (and 2 days) after 200,000 people first gathered in Times Square to ring in the New Year, I plan to raise a glass and toast Jack Y., one of the nicest men I’ve ever known. We will miss you.