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World War I veteran ponders 102 years

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BerichtGeplaatst: 31 Aug 2006 19:02    Onderwerp: World War I veteran ponders 102 years Reageer met quote

World War I veteran ponders 102 years

World War I veteran ponders 102 years
ē Oldest in Kane Co.: He joined Army at age 13, worked to transport wounded

By Linda Schweitzer

AURORA ó Age is only a state of mind for William Olin of Aurora.

The last surviving World War I veteran in Kane County, Olin celebrated his birthday Monday, and he looks much younger than his 102 years.

And it's not the first time the seasoned veteran, born Aug. 28, 1904, has fooled people about his age.

In 1917, when the United States entered World War I, Olin was 13 years old and had a strong desire to support his country. He enlisted in the Army and shortly after was shipped to Bohme, France.

"I was a pretty good size, about 6 feet tall, and they never questioned you," Olin said.

"I told them I was 18 years old. I was a fool kid, and it was too late for my parents to do anything."

Olin doesn't like to talk about the war, but he said, "I did everything. When they asked for volunteers, I would volunteer."

"I chased an ambulance," he added. "I was the mule, and it wasn't what I thought it was.


Olin's job as an ambulance assistant was transporting the bodies of American soldiers.

"They told me I didn't have to wear sidearms because the Germans had a pact with them that they wouldn't shoot an ambulance. But actually, they used that red band on your arm for a target."

Olin later was shot in the knee and spent time in a military hospital, before receiving a medical discharge in 1919.

After the war, Olin found a job as a mechanic in Aurora, working on cars, trucks and privately owned airplanes. He married three times and had eight children; two are deceased. He claims many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren.

"I've never counted them, but I've got over 200 from five generations," Olin said. "And I don't know all of their names; but everyone says, 'Hi, Grandpa' and I have to say, 'Who are you? Who is your father?'‚Ää"

Olin lived in three different houses in Aurora and built two of those homes. He worked for the West Aurora school district for 27 years, taking care of school buses. He left the district in 1974.

"I was 70 years old, and the age limit was 55," Olin remembered. "So I went out to my little farm and raised sweet corn, beans, carrots and tomatoes."

His advice for growing old and wise is to "drink all the whiskey and chase all the women you can," but he admits with a laugh that he didn't do that.

Olin now lives in a supportive living apartment at the Aurora Rehabilitation and Living Center on Farnsworth Avenue.
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