A long life? Searsport WWII veteran says 'don't worry about it'

Pedrizet shares his thoughts on longevity
By Ethan Andrews | Jun 18, 2017
Photo by: Ethan Andrews Robert Perdrizet on June 9 in one of his gardens in Searsport.

Searsport — Robert Perdrizet makes a point to say that he's not 97 years old yet, but at 96 he's older than almost everyone. And in some ways, he's younger than most.

His marquee story, to the extent that everyone has one, comes from his service in the Navy during World War II. He sailed the North Atlantic as an engineer on the Battleship Arkansas searching for German subs, and later worked on a minesweeper in Australia and the South Pacific.

In 2013, he dictated his recollections of the war in a phone interview for the Reichelt Oral History Program at the University of Florida. Of the interview itself, Perdrizet recalled that the phone call came out of the blue, which made for a disorganized account. At the top of a printed transcript, he wrote: "Not grammatically correct, but true."

Any lapses in his story could be forgiven. For many Americans of average health and longevity, World War II was a lifetime ago.

In the years after, Perdrizet worked as a school principal and later signed on with sofa bed originator Castro Convertibles, where he rose to rank of vice president. In an undated photo from the grand opening of the Poughkeepsie, New York, showroom Perdrizet can be seen holding one end of a ceremonial ribbon opposite heavyweight boxing champion Rocky Marciano. He stayed with Castro until he was 70, and after a first failed attempt to retire, opened a Murphy Bed business in Boca Raton, Florida, but later sold it to friend, who he said got rich off the venture.

He has five children from two marriages and has outlived both wives.

Perdrizet probably owes some of his longevity to genetics. His mother lived to be 103. His father died of ALS, then known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, but not until he was in his 90s. From his war recollections, one gets the sense that Perdrizet's farm upbringing made him resourceful, and he survived enough close calls during his time in the service to either fortify or sink a person later in life.

When asked about getting old, he said simply, "You don't worry about it."

His diet is modest and solidly rooted in the mid-20th century — oatmeal and a cup of tea for breakfast, saltines with Tabasco sauce, salads of beans and tomatoes with anchovies, a hamburger or lamb chop from time to time. If he goes out to eat, he might order halibut. He summed it up in a piece of dietary advice: "Plain food," he said. "Don't pig out."

Behind two houses he owns near the Searsport-Belfast town line, he grows vegetables, flowers and fruit trees. The gardens produce more food than he needs, but he likes the physical activity, and he's usually able to find takers for the produce.

Perdrizet grew up on a farm during the Great Depression, and ran away from home when his father wouldn't let him study agriculture. The Navy and his later life as a salesman was, in effect, a long detour from what he loved doing. A few years back, he blew out a leg muscle so badly that he could no longer kneel. Still he laughed at the suggestion that gardening might be hard work. "I can't get enough of it," he said.

Five years ago, he drove by himself to Alaska — a round trip of 11,000 miles. After the trip, he told The Bangor Daily News he did it because he had always wanted to.

On the morning of June 9, he was trying to get a handle on the size of the universe after reading a scientific journal. One of his grandsons had applied to go to Mars, he said. The trip would be 225 million miles, which Perdrizet guessed would make it a one-way trip.

One of the articles in the scientific journal referred to something 400 million miles away.

"Four hundred million miles," he said. "How can you even put your mind around 400 million miles? When they talk about that kind of distance, it seems like there have got to be other places with life."

Perdrizet guessed he'd eventually end up in one of those places — some habitable distant corner of the universe, where he would be unable to communicate back to Earth. He said this like a very young person might.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.