101 year old veteran smiling at birthday celebration at the Y

Veteran Thomas Rexford, born on November 11, 1919, celebrated his 101st birthday at the Hernando Y. He is pictured in uniform around the age of 18.

Among those who attended a Veterans Day breakfast to honor their service sat one vet whose day was even more special. Veteran Thomas Rexford, born on November 11, 1919 in Schenectady, New York, was celebrating his 101st birthday. 

“It’s a big day for me,” Thomas says, who also voted in the 2020 election. “I wouldn’t have believed it that I would get that far but now I have something to look forward to - 102.” 

Thomas served in WWII in the Army Air Force. The Hernando County Family YMCA surprised him with a cake. He also received a quilt from the Quilts of Valor Foundation, meant to offer comfort when the dark memories return or to wrap around when a hug is needed, and a plaque from the Veterans' Heat Factory, a non-profit that helps veterans with PTSD. 

“He came from a very small town where I don’t think he ever was away from home very far to going out in the world as a young man and having to serve under those circumstances. I think it was very difficult,” says his wife of 30 years, Beverly. “He’s a wonderful husband and I’m very proud of him for his service.”

Humble, Thomas didn’t talk much of his war days except for the time he rode a motorcycle for the first time but says he doesn’t want to go back. “I don’t think they’re looking for recruits like that right now – you could get the enemy by surprise though,” laughed Beverly. 

The couple have been members of the Hernando Y for 30 years. 

“When we first came here the pool was so empty I felt like it was my own,” says Beverly, “but over the years we sometimes came three or four times a week. The Y has been a very big part of our lives here and our enjoyment. We have a lot of respect for the Y because it serves from the very youngest kids in the pool to the very oldest who do whatever they can and it’s the highlight of our community.”

Thomas used to swim but mostly watches Beverly do laps while sitting in his electric scooter and sometimes still uses the wellness center. He attributes the secret to his long life to “having a good wife.”

The YMCA of the Suncoast deeply appreciates Thomas and all our nation’s veterans for their sacrifice and service. Thank you for protecting our freedom!

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