“You’re looking at a guy here who doesn’t take any pills,” said a remarkably hale Joseph Perling, who celebrated his 100th birthday in June.
His 95-year-old wife, Doris, has been by his side for seven decades, and the two have lived in the same house since 1957, when they moved to Atlanta from Minnesota.
The couple met in England, where Joseph’s military unit was stationed during World War II, and married less than two months later.
“Everyone said it wouldn’t last because we didn’t know each other long enough. Now it’s been 73 years,” Doris said, laughing. A Londoner by birth, Doris Flank first encountered her future husband at a party in Blandford, Dorset.
“It was a dance for soldiers at the Corn Exchange there,” Joseph said. “We knew each other about seven weeks and got married by a guy named Bastard!” More laughter.
After a monthlong honeymoon at the centuries-old Crown Hotel, Joseph, by now a sergeant, returned to active duty in Africa and Sicily, among other postings. He was discharged in 1945 in what was then Czechoslovakia and returned to the United States with his bride, taking a position at the Veterans Administration.
A series of sales jobs followed — mostly footwear — and then a long stint at various Publix stores in Atlanta. “At 75 I went to work as a bagger and retired from there after 18 years, so that put me at 93 when I left work. I chose her over Publix,” he said, pointing to Doris. “I was only going to be there for a couple of years. There were other jobs, but I didn’t want them. I like bagging.”
Doris added, “He enjoyed doing it. He met people and got away from me for a while.”
He responded, “I didn’t want to say that.”
Joseph and Doris have three children, two grandchildren and three great-grandsons, and photos of them adorn the walls of their Toco Hills home.
“Every Friday night the kids come for dinner. Sometimes it’s a success; sometimes it’s an omelet. But they still come back,” said Joseph, the cook of the house.
“I think actually that’s what got me where I am today: I keep active,” he said. “I would advise anyone that’s healthy, really and truly, do not retire from life, which a lot of them do. Retire from a job, find something else to do, but don’t retire from life.”
Asked about the world they now live in, the Perlings were unimpressed.
“I have grandkids. What are we turning over to them?” Joseph asked. “World War II was supposed to be the war to end all wars. We haven’t been out of a war since. We have military all over the world, and now they want to send more troops to Afghanistan. Why? If they were smart, they’d get out of there. It’s a losing battle.”
Joseph blasted President Donald Trump for his isolationist stance and for ignoring human rights issues. “That last trip he made? Saudi Arabia is the worst country in the world when it comes to treating women and children badly, and he didn’t even bring that up. Why not? All he said was ‘How many armaments do you want?’ “
The couple has no time for modern technology either. “We don’t have any of those fancy gadgets, don’t have a computer,” Joseph said. “I’ve got a cheap cellphone just for emergencies. Facebook and all that junk? Don’t need it. We get along pretty well, don’t we dear?”