Aldridge county#039;s newest centenarian

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 2, 2003

Delbert Aldridge credits his faith in God and keeping active with his longevity.

However, his own applesauce recipe may be another reason behind his long life.

Aldridge, an Ironton resident, turned 100 today and spent last weekend and this week celebrating with friends and family members.

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If a well-known physician was correct in 1906, Aldridge would not have had a long life at all. While growing up in his native Pedro, he fell ill with pneumonia.

"An ambulance came after me, and I refused to go," he said. "An Ironton doctor checked me over and said, 'He's gone,' and covered me with a sheet. Twenty minutes later, I threw the sheet off."

Aldridge was a busy child. He remembers the times when oxen would pull iron from furnaces that blanketed Lawrence County in earlier times. At 12, he had a job at a coal mine in which he would drive six mules at the Hanging Rock and Iron Coal Company.

"There were no lines or strings," he said. "You had to talk to them."

The mules, he said, knew their route, so he does not recall ever using a whip on them. He often rewarded one particular mule with an apple or a chocolate drop.

Besides serving in World War II, Aldridge worked in the shipping department of Armco Steel for 31 years before retiring. He also had jobs driving a wrecker, an ambulance and a taxi. One taxi passenger traveling between Huntington, W.Va., and Portsmouth, he will never forget. He does not remember the woman's name, but Aldridge said she was from a Hollywood studio. The woman constantly had him stopping at railroad crossings, where she would get out.

Aldridge has been a longtime member of Central Christian Church, where he was a board member for 60 years. He spent 42 years as chairman and held that position during the construction of the church's current building next to Ironton High School. For 40-50 years, he worked with the youth of the church, frequently rewarding them with trips to ball games. Aldridge has also been a mainstay at the homes of sick church members.

Now, he keeps busy with yard work, housekeeping and church. That exercise, along with not smoking since 1935, he credits for his many birthdays.

He is also a huge fan of the game show "The Price is Right" and frequently watches baseball and football games on television, particularly the Cincinnati Reds. Even though he only does it during daylight hours, he still drives, taking trips that include delivering his famous applesauce to others.

"One lady won't take her medicine without my applesauce," he said. "I've got to keep going.

"I've been in good health for a long time. My doctor asked me how I continue to stay in good health, and I said it was the applesauce and water. He got a kick out of that and the receptionist did, too."

Family is also dear to Aldridge. He and his wife Florence were married for 61 years before she died in 1999. He also has one daughter and son-in-law, Joan and Steven Wivchar of Indian Harbor Beach, Fla., three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Aldridge offered the following advice for someone wanting to make the most out of their years.

"Try to do a good deed for someone every day," he said. "Generally, that will do it."