When America entered into World War II, Willie McNair Sr. was a man of 22.
He would go on to serve overseas in the Pacific, as part of the forces of the U.S. Army that would vanquish and occupy Japan.
That was more than 75 years ago, and last Friday evening, on the occasion of his 102nd birthday, he was treated to a celebration not only of his longevity but of his patriotism.
A contingent from Boy Scout Troop #347 was among the many people who joined in a caravan from the former Washington High School to the family home on Apollo Street.
With Willie McNair Sr., now recovered from COVID-19 after a brief spell in the hospital, seated on his porch alongside his caregiver Janice Hamilton, he waved to the long queue of cars that honked their horns in celebration of McNair.
After returning from the service, McNair worked as a mail carrier for both the The St. Joe paper mill and the railroad. He and his wife, the former Marion Williams McNair, who passed away six years ago, were married more than 60 years, and together raised five children.
The eldest daughter, Barbara King, 71, lives in Dade City, while Janice Hamilton, 68, lives in Port St. Joe and Hilda Herbert, 66, in Winter Haven. Son Willie Jr., 64, of Apalachicola, and Eric, 62, of Port St. Joe, who served alongside each other for 32 years with the Army National Guard, round out the extended family circle, which extends all the way to great-great-grandson Blaze Williams, 8 months old, son of T. J. Williams, of Port St. Joe.
The family gave out suppers of hot dogs, chips, drinks and birthday cake to the long queue of motorists as they passed.
“It’s our way of giving back to the community,” said daughter-in-law Nissie McNair. “And to say thank you.”