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George Kendrick, who looks too young to be the 100-year-old he is, grew up believing his birthday was Feb. 13, 1913.
Raised in Clarksville, Tenn., Mr. Kendrick didn't have a birth certificate until decades later as an adult living in Toledo. When the piece of paper came, he realized he was not only a year older but he was also a leap year baby.
So last Wednesday, on his relatively new, but now official, birthday, Mr. Kendrick became a centenarian.
About 100 friends, neighbors, and former co-workers attended a party marking the event. His birthday drew accolades from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell during a Sunday service at Calvary Baptist Church in Toledo.
Mr. Kendrick, who grew up thinking he would never see an African-American President, received a letter from President Obama commemorating his 100th birthday.
Raised by his grandmother, he earned 50 cents a day working in the fields sunrise to sunset. He went to school only through the fourth grade, opting to earn money and take care of himself.
When he moved to Toledo in 1947, work was the steady force in his life.
A construction worker and a member of the Laborers Local 500, he retired in the late 1970s, but worked part time until he was about 80. "I never was still. I was always doing something," said Mr. Kendrick, who still mows his lawn, works his gardens, and drives his Lincoln Town Car. "That must be good for me because I'm still here."
After growing up in the rural South and living through the Great Depression, Mr. Kendrick prefers to pay cash instead of going into debt. He is incredulous about a society where health care and cars are so expensive and commercialism is rampant.
"What we are doing now, I think we're pricing ourselves out of everything around in America. That's the reason why things are tough," he said. "Everybody wants a big raise. What good is a raise? Get paid for what you do, but there's no need for you to try and rob everybody else."
He recalls a simpler time, when bread cost 10 cents and people were better at saving their money.
His wisdom isn't lost on his friends. "If there [were] more people like George, we wouldn't have half the problems in the world," said Keith Tucker of Toledo, owner of a Ziebart-Rhino franchise.