If you should survive to a hundred and five ...

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Ellen Plourde

Editor's note: We published the following tribute to Paul Soderdahl on July 6, 2011:

…Think of all you'll derive just from being alive. Here is the best part, you've got a head start, if you are among the very young at heart.

I am always amazed at the way people respond to Paul when we are out and about OP, but also when they hear how old he is.

On July 10, he'll be 105.

Paul has lived in the same home for 104 years. He worked as a pharmacist for many years in the Austin-Oak Park area. He taught Pharmacy at the college level. In fact, he taught Dr. Elich's father (Peterson's Pharmacy) in pharmacy school.

The Oak Leaves did a story when Paul's father turned 100 in January of 1959. The senior Mr. S. moved to Oak Park in 1887. He was a caretaker at various homes and recalled that one of his employers who lived near the old village hall (Euclid and Lake) pastured cows near his home. He worked as a janitor at the old Oak Park High School (East Avenue and Lake Street), which later became Bishop Quarter Military Academy and now houses the Academy of Movement and Music. He married and bought the house on Humphrey in May of 1907, when Paul was almost a year old. Paul still lives there. All their friends questioned the decision to live "north of Chicago Avenue" because "that's way out in the country. There are no houses there."

Paul continues to live alone, cook his own meals, and be exceptionally friendly and pleasant. He has his weekly grocery shopping trips and his weekly attendance at First United Church is "almost" flawless. Everyone we meet is amazed at his fortitude, but mostly by his extreme pleasantness. He loves the beef barley soup at Erik's Deli and the barbecue beef at Russell's. He is a regular observer of the 4th of July Parade from the corner of Iowa and Ridgeland.

Wednesday Journal did a story about him in 2003 and another on "Ageless Wonders" in 2008. Several years ago, he and I also "co-taught" a Chicago History series at Whittier Elementary. We brought Paul in the last week, as he was a Whittier alumnus. Wednesday Journal also wrote about that.

Paul is the genuine article: kind, loyal, and grateful for every day he has. First United Church traditionally holds a birthday party celebrating their "seniors." This year, it will be held on Paul's birthday, July 10.

Paul has a couple of faithful, loving people in his life: Jane Lare, who drives him to church; Lee Brooke, a faithful friend; Kip Plourde and his partner, Sandra Cornejo, who do countless things for him, and myself. Though Kip and I are no longer married, we both consider him part of our family, and our young adult children see him as their grandfather in every way. Lee Brooke, over the last couple of years, added some biographical pieces to a book idea he was working on, about centenarians in our villages.

Considering the reception Paul gets everywhere we go, his story is one that never gets old!

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