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New Year's Eve baby celebrates 109 years

(ran SS edition of METRO & STATE)

Though the body may not be as willing anymore, Ed DuPont's "thoughts are still active."

And on the occasion of his 109th birthday on New Year's Eve, he said that's the most important thing.

DuPont came into this world Dec. 31, 1889, which he considers a good birthday because, "Everyone seems to want to make a fuss over you because of the holiday."

Age is slowly catching up to the Union, N.C., native, although he still lives in the independent living apartments at the Oaks of Clearwater. Several months ago, he fell. He now walks with a cane and his eyesight is failing.

But not long ago, he played pool in the afternoons. Until he turned 95, he drove and played golf.

At 100, he began to wonder whether there were any local clubs for centenarians. Realizing there were not, he waited until a few other residents at Oak Bluffs Retirement Center in Clearwater reached the momentous mark and founded the Century Club.

The club now has three members _ DuPont, Ralph Simpson and Harry Miller _ who meet weekly for a meal and conversation. Member Eva Rogers hasn't been able to attend meetings lately.

The group is lovingly known by staff members as the "Under the Hill Gang."

"It is just fun to be part of the group. We don't do much, but just being together and knowing each other is nice," said DuPont, who has lived at the Oaks about 19 years. "We make our own fun."

DuPont knows about being part of a group. He became a Mason in 1916 and in 1996 received an 80-year service award from Clearwater Masonic Lodge 127.

Dick Coryell of Lakeland, past master of the lodge, said DuPont is the oldest living member of the Masons in the United States.

DuPont has fond memories of childhood, especially of riding motorcycles with his two brothers in "wide-open spaces."

He laughs when he says he was married "69 years _ all told."

He was married 38 years to Florence McGrath, who died in 1952 in a car accident. They had a son and two daughters.

He worked as a mechanical drafting line worker for General Electric and as a chief draftsman for Walter Kitty Co. and A.B. Sands and Co. During both world wars, DuPont worked as a mechanical engineer. He retired in 1961 at 72 from the engineering department of a government arsenal in Dover, N.J.

In 1970, DuPont moved to Clearwater. His second wife, Eleanor Carberry, died in 1993. They were married 31 years.

Today, his daughter Midge DuPont of Dunedin does all his shopping and visits him often. He speaks fondly of the time they spend together, and he "loves to sail on her 27-foot boat."

DuPont credits his long life to his lineage. His mother died when she was 95. His father died at age 80. "I've never really had any sickness. Just the usual measles when I was a kid," he said.

DuPont smoked until he was 65, but rarely drank. "I do like a cocktail now and then," he admitted. His mind is in excellent condition. And so is his sense of humor.

_ Staff photographer Douglas R. Clifford contributed to this report. Information from Times files was used.