A World War II veteran and Elmore County resident celebrated a major birthday milestone by becoming a centenarian.
Over 200 friends and several generations of family from Elmore County and beyond joined Walton Mabrey Whetstone as he celebrated his 100th birthday Saturday at Weoka Community Center.
Whetstone is recognized as the oldest living WWII veteran in Elmore County.
“When people ask him if he is a hero he always tell people it is the ones who did not come back who are the heroes,” his son Mabrey Whetstone Jr. said.
Born in Weoka Jan. 2, 1920, Whetstone graduated a year early from Elmore County High School and was the valedictorian. By the time he reached 20 years old, America was already pulled into WWII due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
“He then went into the Army in 1942,” Whetstone Jr. said. “He stayed in for four years. His last two years he ended up in Italy and went into Germany.”
Whetstone recalled longing for his small Elmore County hometown his time during WWII.
“It made you think,” he said. “I got my breakfast one morning. A shell came in and it knocked the plate out of my hand. I said right there I was going back to Weoka. Well, the other soldiers didn’t know what a Weoka was.”
When the war ended, Whetstone returned home to Weoka and started a family.
“My mother, Hazel, she grew up around here,” Whetstone Jr. said. “They married as soon as he came back.”
Whetstone Jr. said it is his father’s love of family and community that makes him a special person.
“As a man, he very much cared about his children and the community,” Whetstone Jr. said. “We’ve always been members of the Methodist church here. He’s still an active member of the church today.”
The celebration included five generations of family members from 100-year-old Whetstone to a 13-month-old great-great-grandchild.
“As a grandfather, there’s nothing more important to him than family,” Whetstone Jr. said. “He’s always been able to be, not a disciplinarian, but a buddy to his grandchildren. He’s very proud of his family. It was great for him to see everyone at one time (Saturday).”
Whetstone and his wife, who passed away in 1990, had four children.
Today, Whetstone is remarried and lives in the same home he settled in when coming back home after WWII.
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs data, 389,292 of the 16 million Americans who served in WWII were alive in 2019, and 4,609 of the living veterans are located in Alabama.