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100th Birthday: George Longie

George Longie was given a Quilts of Valor quilt in 2019 from the Umpqua Valley Quilters’ Guild.

Roseburg resident George Longie will celebrate his 100th birthday Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022.

A long-time resident of Medford, he moved to Roseburg in 2019 to live with his son and daughter-in-law (Keith and Joanne Longie) so they could help him with his daily activities.

George entered the Army in 1942 and served in the China-Burma-India theater. For his effort, he was awarded two Bronze Stars, an Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, and a Victory Medal.

He was born on the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Indian Reservation in North Dakota in 1922. He was raised by his grandparents and later in Catholic boarding schools in the region. World War II broke out when he was 19.

When he was a boy, he drove a small Fordson farm tractor as a farm hand at the boarding school farm, but the Army considered it heavy equipment and he was soon driving D6 and D8 Caterpillar tractors building roads for the war effort. He also was a sharpshooter.

George was also on one of the intramural Army boxing teams. After one of his successful matches, the legendary boxers Joe Lewis and Ray Robinson came up to George and asked if he was going to fight professionally. George said he didn’t think so, and Joe responded that was good idea because “you have such a pretty face, you wouldn’t want to get that messed up!” From then on, he was known as Pretty Face.

But that didn’t mean he escaped the horrors of WW II while there.

One painful experience, he relays, was when they had to walk through the slums of Calcutta, India, where starving mothers of the lowest caste members of the Indian society known as “Coolies” would throw dead babies at the soldiers to catch and asked for a rupee (about $.30) to take the babies back. He said the smell of death and sights of abject poverty and starvation was too much to bear. They didn’t call it PTSD back then, but it was suggested that it would go away once he returned home when the war ended. It didn’t.

When he returned, he married and had three children. In 1955, the family was told to move from North Dakota to settle in Medford, because of health issues of his two youngest sons. He found work at the local newspaper as a printer; his wife, Mary, joined him later to work as a proofreader. He retired from the Medford Mail Tribune after 32 years.

He spent his retirement time playing 18 to 27 holes of golf a day, and has eight holes-in-one. He would be playing today had his knee not given out.

To help with his knee rehab, at age 85 he joined Baxter Fitness in Medford, a rehab and exercise facility for those over 50. Although he was working on his knee, he enjoyed helping others on their exercise routines, showing them how to use the equipment, and encouraging them through their pain. He volunteered there for the 12 years until his move to Roseburg.

His favorite piece of equipment was the rowing machine. He entered national rowing competitions for several years and always placed in the top three for any age group. He also entered worldwide competitions. He once rowed 700,676 meters, or 435 miles, within a 30-day period.

Baxter Fitness also saw numerous Parkinson’s disease patients. George took a special interest in these patients as he recalled his Army boxing skills. He taught them boxing exercises to help control their random movements. He would hold boxing pads while the patient would work to hit them.

Longie was awarded a Quilts of Valor quilt in 2019. The beautiful quilt was made by ladies from the Umpqua Valley Quilters’ Guild. George received his quilt during a ceremony at the Sutherlin library that was attended by approximately 100 friends and family. George was scheduled to go on the Honor Flight of Oregon in May 2020 to Washington, D.C. However, it was canceled due to COVID.

He resides at the Roseburg Veterans Administration Medical Center.