101-year-old WWII veteran credits moderation, healthy living as secret to longevity – Daily Herald

Mark McKell of Spanish Fork was two years out of college and living in Provo when he received a draft notice. It was 1942, and he was being asked to join the Army in the fight against Germany in World War II.

The Brigham Young University graduate, who had gotten married a year and a half earlier, boarded a train to Salt Lake on a freezing cold January morning and transferred onto a bus to Fort Douglas. He was sworn in, took his placement exams and headed to Fort Warren in Wyoming.

I was expecting it, McKell said about being drafted. The war had been going on for about two years, and he knew that his participation in it was both imminent and inevitable.

In a way, McKell was destined for the war. He was born on Sept. 17, 1918, less than two months before Germany signed a peace agreement that marked the end of World War I. But he was too young to be drafted for that one, he jokes.

Mckell ended up being stationed in Trinidad, a Caribbean island that is part of the British West Indies, for two years. Though he was never trained to use it, he remembers being armed with a pistol while driving to the Port of Spain to pick up mail, in case of danger. Id have to wear a pistol around there and never learned to shoot it! McKell remembers.

McKells older brother, Arthur Art McKell, also served in the war. After getting sick with a bad cold, Art ended up transferring to the same island as his younger sibling. There, they got to sleep in the same barracks for a year and eight months.

The stroke of luck didnt end there. Art received a 30-day pass to return home to Utah. The day before he departed, McKells commanding officer made an announcement to the unit. One of you gets to go home, the commander told the seven-person unit. To decide who got to temporarily leave Trinidad, the soldiers drew straws.

And I drew the lucky straw, Mckell said. He and Art got to go home together.

Still, the fortune continued. McKell and his wife had been married for four years, but had never been able to have any children with McKell overseas. During that trip home, they conceived their first child.

McKell was in Trinidad when he got word that the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He knew the war would soon be over.

But McKell was ignorant to the haunting and horrific details of the Nazi regime, including the existence of concentration camps and the ethnic cleansing of Jews and other ethnic minorities.

We never knew about all these camps where they were killing people, he said. We didnt know that until after the war.

In his years of service, McKell never found himself in any life-threatening situations. This wasnt the case for some of his fellow BYU class of 1936 alumni, three of whom served in the Air Force and never returned home.

After the war, McKell took a job with the Spanish Fork post office after his mother suggested he apply. He ended up working there for 38 years until he retired.

McKell remembers leaving work one day to check on his mother, who lived three blocks away, as he did two or three times a day. On this occasion, he called her name and didnt hear anything. He rushed down the hallway and found her stuck in the bathtub, unable to get out.

If I hadnt come that day she wouldve died, McKell said. She only weighed about 80 pounds.

McKell turned 101 in September and credits his long life to avoiding extremes, staying physically active and eating healthy.

He walks around his Spanish Fork neighborhood six times every morning and another six times most afternoons. He eats tossed salads and creamed corn and has a healthy obsession with KFC mashed potatoes. For dessert, he usually opts for ice cream, Jell-O or Tapioca pudding.

The WWII veteran also likes to play the organ, something he picked up 30 years ago, and spending time with his 41 great-grandchildren.

McKell documents his life by writing in journals, a habit he learned from his great-grandfather who migrated to the states from Scotland. He keeps one of his great-grandfathers passages that he finds to be particularly profound: I was born in a land of kings and queens, it reads. But there is no royal blood (in the U.S.). We are all enjoying equal rights and privileges.

Even with all the writing, McKell finds it hard to get the thoughts out of his head. My biggest problem is going to sleep at night, he said. I guess I get too much on my mind.

Ironically, McKell was awarded a plaque at his 1981 Spanish Fork High School reunion that read The Only One Thats Never Gotten Old.

Im probably the only one in our class left, McKell laughs.

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101-year-old WWII veteran credits moderation, healthy living as secret to longevity - Daily Herald

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