The birthday wishes had come from all over the country.
In Gale Stohler’s small apartment at Greenwood Village South, cards were taped to the doorways and set up on tabletops.
Framed greetings from Larry Bird and former Indiana Sen. Dick Luger were hung on the wall. Joining them soon would be official letters from President Barack Obama and former President George H.W. Bush.
Stohler tried to downplay the attention he was getting on his
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102nd birthday. But it was hard to hide his happiness.
“It pleases you to see that,” he said.
Stohler celebrated his milestone birthday on Friday surrounded by his children and friends from the Greenwood area. Still in good health, he hoped that the same group would all be together again next year to mark another special year.
“I’m still feeling OK,” he said.
Stohler isn’t able to get out and travel much anymore. But he and his son, Don, were able to take a special trip recently to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.
A former forward for the Markleville High School varsity team, he was able to read about some of the great players that he squared off against during his playing days.
“He used to really follow it closely,” Don Stohler said.
Basketball has been a major part of Gale Stohler’s life. A die-hard Indiana University fan, he bought the family’s first television set in 1953 so he could watch games live.
When his children were old enough, he took them to Indiana Pacers games when the team played in the American Basketball Association. He’d try to attend any basketball game in the region, from high school to small colleges.
“I just like everything about the whole game,” he said.
Gale Stohler, who worked as an executive supervisor for the Internal Revenue Service, can’t explain his longevity. He eats three good meals a day, and he never smoked.
It may have something to do with the hard work and healthy diet that were the foundation of his life growing up in rural Madison County.
The farm didn’t have indoor plumbing or central heating and wasn’t equipped with electricity until Stohler was a teenager.
His family raised its own food, tending livestock such as cows, pigs and chickens and growing tomatoes, carrots, lettuce and other produce.
As a boy, he was taught to work hard. He milked his first cow when he was 7 and recalls plowing and discing fields with horse-drawn machinery.
“He had to get up before basketball practice and go work on the farm in the morning then go to school after that,” Don Stohler said. “Then there were more chores when they got home.”
The family had a small orchard that provided apples, and gardens gave them access to strawberries, rhubarb and cabbage.
A veteran of the U.S. Army, Gale Stohler served as a master sergeant in the supply corps during World War II. His unit helped provide the supplies that allowed Gen. George Patton’s forces to prevail in western Europe.
When he returned from the war, he and his wife, Lucille, moved into a home on the southside. He’s lived in the area ever since.
The family has been gathering at Greenwood Village South to throw Gale Stohler a party on Dec. 19 every year since he turned 98. They’re looking forward to another get-together in December 2015.
“We want to celebrate those major years,” Don Stohler said.
Name: Gale Stohler
Home: Greenwood; formerly of Southport
Occupation: Retired, formerly executive supervisor for the Internal Revenue Service; associate chief for the appellate division
Family: Wife, Lucille; children, Jim, Don and Joann Davis.
Education: 1931 graduate of Markleville High School; earned his certified public accountant’s certification in 1948