BRISTOL, R.I. (WPRI) — Ask Arthur Medeiros what it’s like to be about a week away from a century of life, and he’s likely to zip a one-liner at you.
“I don’t know about 100,” Medeiros said. “I feel 99.”
He made a few headlines over the years as the leader of a local band, and when he was finally presented with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart about 70 years after he earned the medals.
His golf game, still strong in his late 90s, was flashed on television at Montaup Country Club in Portsmouth where we watched him play the game he’s loved since he was a teen.
“My first club had a hickory shaft,” Medeiros said. “Now, my eyes are so bad, whoever I golf with has to tell me where it went.”
He was even younger when dyptheria, a pandemic from the past, hit home with no mercy.
“I was about eight or nine years old,” Medeiros said. “I lost a brother and a sister. She was a beautiful little girl.”
World War II sent him to Europe as a machine gunner during the Battle of the Bulge.
He was within inches of deadly gunfire that took out friends and all but a dozen of his battalion of more than 200 men.
“The last time I was hit, I said, ‘this war better end pretty soon,'” Medeiros said. “I think my luck’s running out.”
Some 80 years later, he still cracks wise about the luck of living a century while he takes one of his daily walks through his Bristol apartment complex.
Medeiros will tell you none of his past compares to the present, with COVID-19 devastating local nursing homes, and many Rhode Islanders who lived through what he’s lived through — dyptheria, the Great Depression, war, tuberculosis, polio.
“Oh, I think this is worse,” Medeiros said. “It just has taken so many lives unexpectedly and it’s so contagious. You don’t know who has it.”
That’s more than likely why his daughter is making sure he stays home during the crisis.
“Every time she comes in and visits me, when she leaves, I walk into my bedroom to see if my shoes are there,” Medeiros said with a chuckle. “She’s a great girl.”
Shoes or not, his family wanted Arthur’s 100th birthday to be special, even if they can’t throw a big party. So they put out a call for birthday cards.
“I got them from all over,” Medeiros said.
But he couldn’t read them without his glasses.
“I can’t even see you,” Medeiros added with a hearty laugh.
That’s when his golfing buddy Pete stepped up.
“This card is from San Diego,” Pete said. “I’m wishing that so many of your dreams will come true this year.”
Cards have come from Georgia, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts.
“Thank you for your service,” one from Delaware read. “My dad was 4th Infantry, Field Artillery. World War II.”
“They’re very nice,” Medeiros said. “It’s more cards than I got in my lifetime.”
That reminded Arthur of the time he tried to sneak a birthday card to his late wife Irene after rushing out to buy one at the last minute.
“She let out a scream,” Medeiros recalled. “I thought she was happy because she got the card. What happened was I got the wrong card. I got her a sympathy card.”
He hopes to be golfing again soon.
But quarantine or not, birdie or bogey, it’s safe to say we should all be as as young as Arthur.
“Sometimes, I feel like I’m about 50 or 60. I feel great. I feel wonderful. I can’t complain. I can’t complain.”