The secret of life: walking and wheat germ

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:48

    It was one of the many quips and words of wisdom imparted by Harry O. Whittam upon his grandchildren, and it turned out to be one of his most profound. A lifetime of walking and wheat germ has earned Harry a place among the centenarians. Harry was born in Newark on May 15, 1905, and spent most of his career as a liquor salesman in Northern New Jersey. He married Helen Moore on August 30, 1930, and they spent most of the next 55 years together in Sparta. Helen passed away in 1985, and Harry moved to Florida shortly thereafter. He has been living on his own in Boynton Beach for the last 20 years. Harry believes strongly in the mantra "Eat to live, not live to eat." He exercises daily and eats a balanced diet of white meats, fish, fruits, and vegetables. Up until his mid-90s, he walked several miles a day. In fact, for his 90th birthday we bought him a treadmill, which he used faithfully until he traded it in for an exercise bike. Many witnessed his energy and enthusiasm at a family event in 1999. "I'll never forget the time we danced at my brother Patrick's wedding," said Kim Whittam Dougherty. "Grandpa was in his early 90s, but he danced like a young man. He glided gracefully over the floor with moves that I sometimes had trouble keeping up with." In a typical conversation, Grandpa says he feels like he's 50, which is a little disturbing to those of his grandchildren who are in their 30s and 40s and feel like 100! If it weren't for his pacemaker, Harry would have been skydiving for his 100th birthday. He even wanted to mark the occasion on water skis, but unfortunately it will not be warm enough in northern New Jersey in May. Instead, his grandchildren are planning a 100th birthday celebration for him in his hometown of Sparta, where he raised his only son and spent most of his life. Harry's son, Donald James, Sr., passed away five years ago. Harry has six grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren, all of whom reside in New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts. Although still a young boy when Harry moved to Florida, Patrick Whittam, Harry's youngest grandson, recalls spending many hours with his grandpa in both the garden and his workshop. "Gramp had some of the coolest tools," Patrick said. "He often set me to work raking under the bushes or pretending to fix things at the workbench, but mostly I just remember playing with the tools." Harry's granddaughter Kelley Whittam Conte recalls a fond memory of her grandpa from a time when he was back in Sparta for Christmas. "During the usual holiday chaos, I remember spotting Grandpa by himself in front of the television watching a country line dancing show and practicing his dance moves. When I asked him about it, he told me had taken a few classes at the ‘club' in Leisureville, Florida and he was practicing so he could dance with the ladies when he got back. I remember thinking, ‘I hope I have that much joy in my life when I'm his age!'" Harry Whittam is an inspiration to all who meet him. Congratulations to you, Harry, on an extraordinary life and 100 years of living.