Meet Fred Winter, a 100-year old World War 2 US Navy veteran. He plans on competing in this year’s Meijer State Games of Michigan Track & Field event. Not just one event, but five (javelin, shot put, 50-meter dash, 100-meter dash, discus) Track & Field events.
Fred grew up in Scranton, PA, a coal mining town where natives were destined for a life of black lung disease due to inhaling coal mine dust. “These gold miners would only live till about 50 because of the diseases they got,” Fred explained. “They knew it was just a matter of time for the Grim Reaper to call their name.” Determined to have a better quality of life, Fred enlisted in the US Navy as his only way out.
Fred served a total of 25 years while in the Navy, which included a term during World War 2 in the Battle of Okinawa. He started as a deck scrubber, and eventually worked his way up to a Chief Petty Officer. Fred recalled fresh water being so scarce in the Pacific that each crew member was handed a bucket of water to start the day. This was all they got to wash their clothes and bathe. All showers onboard operated with salt water from the ocean. Among his many years enlisted as a member of the Navy, Fred served upon the USS Mississippi, Enterprise Air Craft Carrier, and the Amphibious Command, which was the second line of defense behind the Marines.
When his time in the Navy was up, Fred studied pre-med at York College in York, Nebraska. It was at York College he met his eventual wife of 65 years, still going strong to this day. Following graduation from York, Fred had trouble getting accepted into medical school, so he turned his studies to Accounting. After receiving his master’s at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, Fred became a college professor in the subject. In a state that runs its economy off crops, however, the teaching salary in Nebraska was not cutting it. At the age of 65, Fred got a job offer as a high school accounting teacher in Holland, Michigan, that offered $3,000 more per year. Needless to say, Fred jumped at the opportunity. He has lived there ever since.
When Fred turned 70-years old, he decided he wanted to start competing in Track & Field through the Senior Olympics, something he hadn’t competed in since high school. “I wanted to compare myself, physically, mentally, morally, with people my own age,” Fred said about his desire to enter the sport, “and the one way to do that is to go into Track & Field.” At first, Fred struggled to qualify for most events, but through hard work, he slowly started earning bronze medals, then silver medals, all the way up to the point where gold medals became expectations.
You might think that Fred has a collection of all the gold medals he has won, but you would be wrong. During combat in the Navy, there was a time that Fred was 10 feet under the Pacific Ocean surface and was certain he was going to die. A fellow member of the Navy, however, rescued Fred and brought him back to the surface. Beyond grateful for having his own life saved, Fred decides to give his gold medals away to anyone he can find that has saved a life. According to Fred, “They deserve it more.”
To be successful in Track & Field, Fred relies heavily on maintaining a healthy living. Every day Fred does aerobics at six in the morning, gradually increases in push-ups (currently at 110 a day), and runs outside. If the weather is poor, Fred avoids excuses and simply runs alongside the walls of his house. When asked what the key to a long lifespan is, Fred answered, “Face God, face your fellow man, and face yourself.” Fred also encourages staying active no matter how young or old you are.
With the Meijer State Games of Michigan this week, Fred looks forward to competing and trying to win a few more medals to handout to those who have saved lives. At 100-years old, Fred Winter is nowhere close to slowing down. His wisdom, generosity, determination, and no-quit attitude is something we can all learn from. 100-years old… What’s your excuse?