‘Don’t think too far ahead,’ he says as he nears 101
As he reflects on more than a century of experiences, World War II veteran Al Towns is most amazed by how the war set the stage for the advancement of women and blacks in the United States.
“Before the war, women were supposed to be nurses or teachers,” said the Pearland resident, whose 101st birthday will be Jan. 31.
“Now, they’re taking over everything,” he said, without complaint. “If you want something done, give it to a woman. She may step on some toes, but she will get it done.”
Towns, who volunteered for military service after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, also noted the many achievements of black members of the military after President Harry S. Truman’s executive order in 1948 ended segregation in the Armed Forces.
Towns’ own achievement of entering the Army as a private and retiring 22 years later as “a full-bird colonel for the Air Force” will be acknowledged at a party this month with his neighbors at Pearland’s Country Place, a gated Pearland community for people age 55 and up.
“Al is a rare bird,” friend R. “Walker” Cook said, adding that the party also will be “a roast.”
For example, one friend will predict that Towns will live at least until his 102nd birthday because he and Towns go out to eat every year in January, alternating who pays each year. Towns paid this year; so their date in 2020 will mean a free meal for him.
Towns was born in Gonzalez County, where he learned his work ethic on a farm, longtime friend Barbara Foster said.
“Living on a farm, you work, you go to school, you work some more, then you go to church on Sunday,” she said. “That was the American way. With that kind of schedule, young people do not get into trouble — no time for that!”
Following his military career, Towns was a comptroller at NASA.
“He was a personnel specialist,” Cook said. “He was solely responsible for analyzing staffing requirements for each office, balancing the requests by each department against the available budget.
“Just like the first astronauts were ‘stick and rudder’ men, Al was a ‘pencil and paper’ man,” Cook said.
Foster said that Towns lives “the life of leisure” at Country Place.
“He lives in his own home, and he has a golf cart he can jump in. He is capable of discussing any subject, and he loves to question your thinking on everything,” she said.
“I am blessed to still have my mind,” he said. “I may not be any smarter, but I like people and I’m still enjoying life.”
In 1975, while hanging out with a singles’ dance group, Towns meet Ann Rich, who he married in 1982, Cook said.
Before she died in 2000, Towns’ wife was a vivacious golfer who won several ladies’ golf titles at Country Place.
Asked, at this time in his life, what advice Towns would give to others, he had this:
“Don’t think too far ahead.’”
Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at email@example.com