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First Baptist Church celebrates the 100th birthday of Junior Elder

Published: Sep. 13, 2020 at 6:50 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Loved ones gathered at First Baptist Church Sunday for a socially distant celebration to honor Junior Elder on his 100th birthday.

Elder said the day made him feel “thrilled to be alive, thrilled to be with family, good, real good”.

“I don’t know how you can describe it, it’s been good to me I’ve had a good life.”

Born in Leoti, Elder is the lone survivor of 20 siblings.

Elder served in World War II first as a member of the National Guard stationed in Topeka from 1943 to 1946 before serving for two years on active duty in the army.

Following his service, he studied at Washburn University and then Washburn Law School where he graduated in 1951.

After graduation, he began working in selective service and became Kansas' Director of Selective Service in the early 1960s and retired in 2000.

Elder said simple practices have guided him through the years.

“Steady breathing, take a big heavy deep breath and sleep, a good night’s sleep,” he said.

“To me, just being able to breathe everyday was an accomplishment.”

Many in attendance were grateful to find some fun when festivities seem to be a rarity.

“I think in a time when the world’s uncertain this is part of the good news we try to concentrate on, 100 years old we have to celebrate this,” First Baptist Church’s Lead Pastor, Nathan Marsh said.

“I think sometimes we tend not to celebrate the things that are good within our lives and I think with Junior and him turning 100 I think that’s something worth celebrating in the midst of pandemics and crazy things going on I think we need to find more things to celebrate.”

Elder has been a member of the church since he was 20 and served on many boards throughout his time as a member of the congregation; Marsh said there is a lot to be learn from Elder’s experience.

“I think when someone has lived this long it’s important for those that are younger to sort of sit back and listen the stories that he can tell are amazing and the things he knows and has learned I have just been impressed with his ability to share, the family members the generations he’s been able to share wisdom with.”

At a time when celebrations look different, Elder’s son, Kenneth, said there’s much to admire about his dad’s life.

“He just keeps on going every day when you visit with him his mind is just so sharp, he’s happy he enjoys being with people,” he said.

“Never give up sometimes you get discouraged and start thinking ‘he never gave up’, he will never give up, and it’s definitely an inspiration.”

Junior said he’ll continue to savor every day of his life.

“I just can appreciate today because as an individual you think--will you ever live to be 100 well, it’s been a good 100 years for me and I can appreciate it.”

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