Brian Roebke photo
Mel Bastian celebrated his 100th birthday with a family dinner on Friday afternoon at the Out-O-Town Club in Kaukauna. Pictured are Bastian, Tom VanderHeiden, Nan VanderHeiden, Jerry Wallander, Karen Wallander Betty Bastian, and Gerry Bastian.
By Brian Roebke
A person can’t ask for much more than turning 100 years old, in good health, still living at home, and doing their own lawn mowing and snow removal.
Mel Bastian pretty happy, if not unimpressed, that he’s lived long enough to become a centenarian.
He thinks he’s lived in the best 100 years, having seen the advent of television and now using a computer, email, and a cell phone.
He graduated from Wrightstown High School in 1939, as valedictorian no less, along with his late wife, Lois Vanderheiden. They started with 30 in the class but only 25 graduated.
He’s one of only two survivors of the class, along with John Early, who lives in Green Bay.
“He’s been 100 for a couple months already,” Bastian said.
He remembers the school adding a gym to the building when he was a sophomore.
He worked in the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay where he was signed up to be a welder but never saw a welding machine prior to that. He eventually became a welder for about a year.
He joined the Air Force as a young man, wanting to be a pilot, but an eye test discovered a problem.
“I passed the written test and went to Milwaukee for the physical and they found out I was partially color blind,” he said.
As life went on, he owned a gravel crushing and washing plant with two others in Brillion and retired when he was 62. He’s now been retired for almost as long as he worked.
He has two sons, Gerry and Richard.
In addition to enjoying golf, Mel is a cribbage player and was still bowling at age 90.
He’s in good health, and gets around better since he had a pacemaker installed a few years ago that Gerry said makes him go like the Energizer bunny.
“He still lives in the same house, he cuts his own grass, blows his own snow in the winter,” Gerry said. “He prays for snow now because he likes that machine that goes out. (when it does).”
Bastian golfed in leagues until about five years ago and was the guy who collected the records on the computer, having to print copies for his buddies.
As with most people, he never thought he would live to reach the century mark, but admitted he’s been looking forward to it for the past year or so.