However, the Scotts Valley resident, whose 100th birthday is Monday, Jan. 21, watches “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune” and completes crossword puzzles almost every day.
“I just dibble-dabble,” Mudgett said of the crosswords, though he sees value in the puzzles for others. “Those (crossword puzzles) are the best ways for a foreigner to learn our language.”
At age 98, Mudgett moved from his home in Capitola to the Oak Tree Villa assisted-living community in Scotts Valley. Until his move, he lived wholly independently. His staple, he said, was a breakfast of oatmeal, raisins, wheat germ and molasses.
Born to Molly Maude and John Otis Mudgett on Jan. 21, 1913, in San Jose, he graduated from San Jose High School and entered the Army as an engineer in 1934 and was sent to Hawaii.
After his service, he re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Moffett Field in Mountain View. At one time during Officer Candidate School, Mudgett recalls being a classmate of actor Clark Gable.
He was transferred to Hamilton Field in Louisiana, where he said he worked with “a bunch of Cajuns,” repairing bombers during the beginning of World War II. He eloped with Bette Lou McMurty, to whom he was married for the next 59 years.
After Hamilton Field, Mudgett attended the Army Air Force Intelligence Academy in Harrisburg, Pa., and was shipped to Upper Assam in northeastern India to analyze captured enemy equipment.
After 11 years in the military, the conclusion of World War II signaled the end of Mudgett’s military life.
Mudgett was hired as a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. engineer and worked out of the same office for 30 years. He retired as a supervisor and moved in 1982 to Capitola to be near his daughter and her husband.
During his time in Capitola, Mudgett served on the county Mobile Home Commission for 2nd District Supervisor Walt Simons and as the chaplain for the local Veterans of Foreign Wars office. He was a dedicated member of Sons in Retirement and a 32nd-degree Mason.
Mudgett had triple-bypass surgery when he was 82 and “never had a bit of trouble” afterward, he said.
He has three children — Diane Graves and husband Ron, Butch Mudgett and wife Jessie, and Brad Mudgett and wife Rose — and six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
Mudgett recalls his experiences fondly but does not dwell on the past.
“I had an old sergeant who said it best,” Mudgett said with a wry grin. “‘People like you have had a lot of experiences in life, and some of them are true.’”
He reflected a moment before offering advice to those younger than him.
“You do the best you can and be honest about it,” he said.
His family — including relatives from Southern California and San Antonio, Texas — will host a 100th-birthday reception for Mudgett on Saturday, Jan. 19, at Oak Tree Villa.
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