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Good for You| Nova Beall

For two men, 100 is just a number

One-hundred-year-old Rudolph Gessler of Tarpon Springs loves sports.

He played tennis until age 94. He also golfed, and enjoyed skiing in Utah and Colorado. And until last year, he was a member of a volleyball team.

For his 100th birthday, Mr. Gessler recently was treated to dinner at a local Chinese restaurant with friends. Later, back at Freedom Inn in Tarpon Springs, where he has lived for six years, he partied with a group of former tennis buddies, as well as two nephews from New Jersey and Michigan.

He was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland, on Feb. 8, 1908, one of nine children born to Maria and Zavier Gessler. It was on the white slopes of his native country that he learned to downhill ski at age 6.

At 18, Mr. Gessler followed an older brother to the United States, entered the country through Ellis Island, and for the next 13 years made his home in New York City.

He got his first taste of Florida when he and a writer friend drove Mr. Gessler's 1929 Tin Lizzy from New York via Highway 9 to Miami, where they stayed for four months doing odd jobs. Mr. Gessler remembers dinners costing just 25 cents each.

By 1936, Mr. Gessler had married his wife, Annette. Within the next four years, the couple moved to Detroit from New York. Thirty years later, the couple decided to move to Florida, and put down roots in a New Port Richey home on a golf course. The city had yet to build public tennis courts, so for three years Mr. Gessler drove to Tarpon Springs daily to play.

He made Tarpon Springs his home after his wife died, and over the next 40 years could be found arranging tennis matches.

As he's aged, Mr. Gessler's running ability has diminished, but not his point-winning strokes.

"Mind you, once he hit 90 he was given two bounces," said Lynda Cummings, a friend and former tennis partner.

The man who partnered in founding the Kandahar Ski Club in Michigan, sailed small boats on Michigan's Lake Sinclair, and was responsible for two holes-in-one on Florida gold courses remains active as leader of the exercise class at Freedom Inn.

"If awards were given out, he would be the top contender for husband, companion, friend, or just all around Man of the Year," Mrs. Cummings said.


In the fifth year of his father's illness, a young Charles McMahan faced a tough decision. Just two weeks shy of his high school graduation, he could get his diploma or take a job that paid $18 a week.

He chose the job. It was a decision he never regretted.

Mr. McMahan, who's made Bayview Gardens Retirement Center in Clearwater his home since 2006, turned 100 on Dec. 31, 2007.

"I've lived the American Dream," he told Janie Jones, manager of Bayview Garden's lifestyles department. "I've had a good life, always. Good family, good friends, good job. A good wife, good kids, just a good Christian life."

He was born on New Year's Eve 1907 in Indianapolis, the fourth of Claud and Pearl McMahan's eight children.

When he was 6, the family moved to Flint, Mich.

It was there, while still in school, the 18-year-old was offered a job wrapping bread for American Bakery Company. Working up through the ranks, he became a driver. Management courses taken at the University of Michigan propelled him up the administrative ladder and he retired in 1975 as plant manager in charge of 175 employees. At that time the company baked 10,000 loaves of bread each day, making Mr. McMahan's plant No. 1 in sales and production.

While still a driver, he met his future wife, Gurneth Turner. They were married Dec. 7, 1928. The happy union lasted 55 years and produced a son and two daughters.

Mr. McMahan loved to golf, swim and boat. Because the family lived on a lake, he had the opportunity to teach his children to swim and water ski.

He has three children, 12 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren, and three great-great grandchildren.

His career spanned 51 years with American Bakery. He was the company's youngest hire and its oldest employee when he retired at 67.

Outside of work, Mr. McMahan was a busy man as well, involving himself with the Chamber of Commerce, Civitan Club, Masons, Shriners, Easter Seals, United Way, and the Citizen's Bank board of trustees. While with the Civitan Club, he served as president, governor-elect, then governor for Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan. He helped with fundraising efforts for hospitals and YMCAs. While a member of the speaker's bureau, he would give speeches in the mayor's absence.

He was also affiliated with the Assembly of God Church, in charge of its senior citizen's group.

Mr. McMahan has an interest in politics and, while an advisor to the White House under George W. Bush, would pass on information from the citizens of Pinellas County for the Republican Party. He was honored for his efforts by former U.S. Rep. Mike Bilirakis, R-Tarpon Springs.

Mr. McMahan says he's tried to set a good example in living his life, and adds "No matter what disaster or trouble, something good will come of it."

Couple celebrates 60th anniversary

The 60th wedding anniversary of Sam and Frances Parisi of Dunedin was recently recognized with a gift certificate from their children giving them the vacation of their choice.

Mr. Parisi grew up in Chicago and served as an airplane navigator in World War II. After the war he returned to the Windy City and became a small business owner.

Mrs. Parisi was raised on a farm in Nebraska and moved to Chicago to continue her career as a registered nurse.

The couple married Feb. 7, 1948 in Chicago.

They are members of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dunedin.

The Parisis have eight children and 15 grandchildren.

Dunedin district chief named top firefighter

Dunedin Fire Department district chief William "Trip" Barrs was named Pinellas County firefighter of the year at the annual County Fire and EMS Awards Banquet in February at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg.

The ceremony was hosted by County Commissioner John Morroni.

Chief Barrs also has received the 2007 Emergency Medical Services Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution.

Chief Barrs lives in Dunedin with his wife, Melissa, and their two children.

To submit an item, write to Nova Beall, 710 Court Street, Clearwater, FL 33756. Fax to (727) 445-4119 or e-mail Good For You includes news of 50th wedding anniversaries, people celebrating their 100th birthday (or more) and young people's noteworthy achievements academically, in the arts or community service. For information or an anniversary form, call (727) 445-4221.

For two men, 100 is just a number 03/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 4:58pm]
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