Community surprises Macomber for 100th birthday

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A milestone birthday requires a special celebration – one that takes months of planning and a community’s collaboration to pull together.

Keeping the party a secret had been a monumental effort, said organizers.

But on Sunday afternoon, as Ralph Macomber rolled up to his 100th birthday party, mounted the steps of the Centennial Building and walked through the doors to the cheers of a gathered crowd, he could not conceal his surprise.

“This is the biggest surprise I have ever had in my life,” Macomber said, looking around at 200 of his gathered friends, family, neighbors and fellow church members. “I’ve been alive a long time, been a lot of places. But I’ve never expected anything like this.”

“I don’t know how they kept it a secret, something as big as this, but my grandson almost let it out at the house this morning. They said, ‘Shh.’ I couldn’t figure out what was going on.”

Macomber, a World War II veteran, has been a member of the Port St. Joe community since he moved to Highland View with his late wife, Alice Macomber, in 1947.

Willie Ramsey, one of the event’s organizers, has lived on the same street as Macomber since he was a child. The celebration took a little more than a year to plan, Ramsey said. His favorite part was getting to learn new bits and pieces of Macomber’s rich past.

“We’re just thrilled to be able to honor him and to find out about his history,” Ramsey said. “We were amazed when we learned some of it. We’ve known Mr. Ralph all our lives, and we’ve talked to him and visited with him, but we never knew he caddied for Babe Ruth. Who would imagine that?”

After a lunch provided by the William Van Der Tulip and Eagle Scouts Troop 47, Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing Honor Guard folded a flag for Macomber, and the centenarian was presented with certificates from the American Legion Post 116 and the VFW Post 10069.

A proclamation from the City of Port St. Joe, which was read aloud at the event by State Rep. Jason Shoaf, listed many of Macomber’s accomplishments – his success as an athlete, his years of service as an airplane mechanic and engineer, his work with the St. Joe Paper Company and more.

Macomber considers his active lifestyle and sense of adventure to be the secrets to his old age.

“The secret to my long life?” he pondered when asked. “Keeping busy, I guess.”

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