World War II veteran from Arkansas celebrates 105th birthday

DEWITT, Ark. — A World War II veteran from Arkansas celebrated another milestone on Saturday, as family members gathered at a nursing home for his 105th birthday.

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Claude Bell Sr., born on June 3, 1918, in DeWitt, is now the state’s oldest living World War II veteran, KATV reported.

“He was a good father and a good husband,” Claude Bell Jr., the veteran’s oldest son, told the television station.

“He really worked hard,” added Keith Bell, Claude’s youngest son. “He farmed rice for 40 years or something and how he is in the physical condition he is now just amazes me.”

On Feb. 18, 1942, Bell joined the army and completed basic training at Camp Robinson in Little Rock, KARK-TV reported. He became a surgical technician during World War II, according to the television station.

“Any time we all had stitches or anything like that, my mom would say, ‘Your daddy can take those out for you,’” daughter Shirley Bell-Thrash told KARK. “And I’m thinking,’ How does he know how to do that?’ But, he learned it in the army.”

Claude Bell was a medic in England, France and Belgium, his grandson, Shawn Bell, told KATV.

“I think that is really cool just to imagine what he saw on the battlefield,” Shawn Bell told the television station. “We cannot comprehend that today.”

Claude Bell received the Victory Ribbon, American Theatre Ribbon, the Good Conduct Medal, and two Overseas Service Bars.

According to Arkansas online records, Claude Bell married Helen Frances Jacobs on Dec. 31, 1947.

They were married for 67 years before Helen died on Sept. 28, 2014.

The couple raised three children and had seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

“He was a good father, took care of his family, a gentle man,” Claude Bell Jr. told KARK. “He didn’t talk a whole lot, but when he did, there was command in his voice.”

Shawn Bell, 49,said his grandfather’s secret to longevity was his healthy lifestyle.

“When he was in his 90s, he got locked out of his car, at the farm, which is 10 minutes from Gillette in the summer,” Shawn Bell told KARK. “I just would’ve sat down and cried.”

Claude Bell Sr. had a simpler explanation.

When nurses at the DeWitt Nursing Home and Hospital asked the veteran if he felt good, he said, “I always feel good,” KATV reported.

Bell-Thrash said her father always talked about making it to 100 years old.

Now Claude Bell has a new goal -- reaching 110 years old.

Don’t bet against him.

“I want to be like that when I’m 105. Fifty-six years from now,” Shawn Bell told KARK. “I haven’t even lived half of his life.”

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