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100-year-old Army veteran can't wait to get back to his volunteer job

By FRANK SCHULTZ | The Janesville Gazette | Published: July 28, 2020

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JANESVILLE, Wis. (Tribune News Service) — Salvador “Sal” Perce is something of a marvel.

He turned 100 on Monday, but most people who see him think he is in his 70s.

He still drives the 1998 Oldsmobile Cutlass that he bought new. It has 70,000 miles on it. His body has traveled a lot farther than that.

Perce has volunteered 1,500 hours at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville since 2013, sometimes pushing people’s wheelchairs.

Fellow volunteers, staff and family members surprised him Monday with a cake, a card and voices raised in the “Happy Birthday” song at his home. He clutched the card and smiled continuously during the event.

Perce’s main job at the hospital involves greeting people at the main entrance and helping them find their way to their appointments. He keeps his station tidy and is called on to help clerks with filing, sorting and delivering mail throughout the hospital.

Like other volunteers, he has not been able to work at the hospital since March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He says he’s more than ready to get back to work.

“Staying home, watching four walls, is not much fun,” Perce said.

On the job, “You meet a lot of people. You talk to them. It’s so good to talk to strange people all the time,” he said.

Perce said staff members are good to the volunteers, always coming to say hello.

“People don’t believe my age when I mention it at work,” he said. “Physically, I am in pretty good health.”

He does some of his own shopping, but “I’m not as active as I used to be,” he said.

Perce, born in Cicero, Illinois, was a bus driver and later a supervisor for the Chicago Transit Authority. He and his wife, Mary Lou, had two children. They moved to Janesville after retirement, in 1985. Mary Lou died in 2011.

Perce has four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He served with the Army in the Pacific during World War II as U.S. forces captured the Japanese-held islands of Leyte, Peleliu and Angaur, and later he was stationed in Japan itself. He said he is “very proud” of his service.

Asked about his longevity, Perce said he thinks it has something to do with the hard physical labor he performed in his youth.

He said he weighs 167 pounds. He is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, but he used to be taller.

“I kept my body in good shape,” he said.

©2020 The Janesville Gazette (Janesville, Wis.)
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