Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Brooksville Elementary volunteer Charles "Mr. Ted" Rahal celebrates his 99th birthday

BROOKSVILLE — Charles Rahal had an inkling that his friends at Brooksville Elementary School were going to do something Wednesday morning to mark his birthday.

After all, it's not every day that you turn 99.

The longtime volunteer, affectionately known as Mr. Ted, guessed right.

When Rahal walked into the school's front office, happy staffers and student showered him with praise. Elizabeth Korn's kindergarten class sang for him.

Rahal, who likes to recite poetry, had some homespun verse ready for the occasion:

"Yesterday I was doing great at 98.

Today I'm doing fine at 99.

I hope you have cake

And we'll have candles that really shine.

Sing a song, dear friends of mine

And help me get started on 99."

Debbie Matherly, a front office secretary, offered reassurance. "We do have a cake, Ted, but the fire department from three counties called and asked us to please not light it!"

Rahal has been coming to the school three mornings a week for about 13 years. He works in the office area, performing tasks such as counting out sets of papers to go home with students.

One of his more important duties is to keep an eye on the coffee machine. A pinch of salt, Rahal confided, improves the coffee a bit.

Some days, he said, he gets to the school and there are no immediate chores for him to do, so he doesn't do anything. "But I do it so well,'' he said, "people say I'm good for nothing."

Rahal said he has survived a heart attack and heart surgery, but recent blood work indicated everything is okay. He lives close to the school and still lives alone. He says he can't cook too well, but "I survive."

He also intends to keep on volunteering. "If you spend all of your time relaxing, you're not worth anything,'' Rahal said. "Do something for someone else. You'll feel better."

He said he'll volunteer, "as long as I can make it and as long as they'll have me here."

Judging by the heartfelt efforts to celebrate his birthday, his place at the school is his for as long as he wants it.

Rahal seemed delighted that his two sons, John and Dick Rahal, his daughter-in-law Nancy Rahal and good friend Cheryl Griffin joined the celebration. Jerry and Nancy Rahal came from North Carolina; Dick Rahal traveled from New Mexico.

The sons explained where Rahal got the nickname Ted, offering a hint at his longevity. When Rahal was an infant, just home from the hospital, a relative looked at the baby and thought he bore a striking resemblance to President Teddy Roosevelt. The name stuck.

Family friend Cheryl Griffin owns and operates an assisted living facility in Brooksville where Rahal's wife, Pauline, lived for a time before her death in 1994 at 86. He stops by every Sunday to make a breakfast casserole, Griffin said, and keeps the residents supplied with vegetable soup.

Another surprise at the birthday party was an envelope from East High School in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, where Rahal graduated in 1929.

Among the cards inside was a letter that included the line, "The Blue Bomber pride still lives on."

Rahal intends to do just that. He has made a pact with God, daughter-in-law Nancy Rahal said, that he was going to stick around until he is 100. At that time, he will renegotiate.

Asked what has led to his longevity, Rahal cited two important ingredients. "I keep breathing," he said, "And I never take myself too seriously."

Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at

Brooksville Elementary volunteer Charles "Mr. Ted" Rahal celebrates his 99th birthday 03/18/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 7:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102