WELLSBURG, W.Va. — On April 4, life-long Brooke County, West Virginia resident William J. McFadden, affectionately referred to as “Pap,” celebrated his 102nd birthday at the Brooke Hills Park Clubhouse near Wellsburg.
He shared the day with close to 100 of his family and friends. No one drove him to his party and the event was not held at his residence.
He drove himself, stood to greet everyone as they walked in the door and mingled with all of those in attendance.
A true anomaly
Pap’s physical and intellectual abilities are difficult for most people to grasp given this amazing man’s age; he is a true anomaly among his few peers.
He is blessed with a sharp crystal clear memory, his mental acuity is amazingly precise and his sense of humor is always quick.
He can tell stories about his childhood working farms and mines before and after school as well as many other stories through the years like they happened yesterday.
He recalled when he was 6, jumping from manure pile to manure pile to keep his feet warm during cold weather. Pap had to start working when he was 6. It is kind of hard to believe, but in 1913 times were much different and child labor laws were non-existent.
Today Pap works his 100-acre farm complete with horses, a very large garden and huge fields from which he harvests hay. He also cuts wood with a chain saw and loads it onto his trailer.
His grandson Kenny McFadden has been assisting Pap on the farm in recent years. Pap operates his Ford tractors and ATV and he maintains the long, narrow, winding dirt road that leads to his large farm.
He frequently drives his Ford Escape to markets and transports the produce he grows to sell and barter — these are just some of his favorite activities.
He regularly patronizes the same local stores; many merchants and store clerks are astonished when they realize his age. People do not expect to see a 102-year-old man walking the aisles at the local grocery store.
McFadden is also a fixture at his daughter’s home on Sundays for a hearty meal with his family and during football season he is a Terrible Towel waving fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pap received a rare honor during his birthday party. West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin sent him an ornate certificate and medal inducting him into the Order of the 35th Star.
The award, symbolic for West Virginia being the 35th state, is one of the highest honors presented to outstanding West Virginia citizens who demonstrated a lifelong commitment to their family, community, state and country.
This great honor is normally reserved for war heroes and public leaders, however McFadden is neither. Pap worked many years in the West Virginia coal mines, quarries and construction companies and on local farms to support his family.
He was one of many men who laid brick on West Virginia Route 67 (Bethany Pike) and he drove teams of horses delivering stone to be laid for West Virginia Route 27 (Washington Pike).
He pushed coal out of many forgotten mine openings that have been closed long ago throughout the Ohio Valley.
He is a positive living symbol of a model West Virginian.
Believes in hard work
McFadden is a man who believes in hard work and continues to practice it every day. Even at 102 he works an honest full day of work.
Although he retired from the coal mines some 40 years ago he never really stopped working. He is always up early and follows a very healthy routine; he never wastes a day when the weather permits.
His work ethic and unwavering family values has apparently sustained him and gives him strength to continue to move through time and touch many lives around him.
In addition to Gov. Manchin, West Virginia Delegate Roy Givens, 2nd Delegate District, sent a letter of congratulations to McFadden.
U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia State Sen. Jack Yost and U.S. Congressman Alan Mollohan are also sending acknowledgments to McFadden.