Local celebrates 100th birthday

Published 8:20 pm Tuesday, March 17, 2020

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WEST POINT — Pokey’s 8th Street Grill in downtown West Point was packed with people gathered for a birthday party late Saturday afternoon. The honoree, Herbert Medlar Ausman, had his 100th birthday on Monday, March 9 and wanted to celebrate in a big way on Saturday. He was a happy man, smiling and nodding at the many people who came by to greet him.

Given the COVID-19 scare that’s gripping the world right now, there was some reluctance on part of the family to have a big event for Mr. Ausman’s birthday, but it’s what he wanted to do and he had a grand time.

“He was so excited about doing this,” said daughter Anita Brazeal. “He wanted everyone he knew to come and to share the day with him. He’s really loving it.”

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How could anyone say no to someone on their 100th birthday, especially a member of the Greatest Generation, who was wounded in World War II?

Mr. Ausman’s three children, six grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren were present for the event along with many members of his church family. For many years, he’s been a faithful member of the Fairfax Methodist Church, where almost everyone calls him Papa. There must be something in the water in Fairfax or something special about living next door to the church. Mr. Ausman is now 100 and his next door neighbor, Bill Addison, is 105 and living at Vernon Woods in LaGrange.

There was some social distancing between guests and Mr. Ausman for most of the day. He was smartly dressed in a white shirt with a blue and red polka dotted bow tie and wearing a light-colored sport jacket.

Ausman was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 9, 1920. His family moved south to Bessemer, Alabama when he was young. and he’s pretty much been in Alabama ever since then. A notable exception was his service in the U.S. Army in World War II. He was awarded a Purple Heart after being wounded in the Italian campaign. He was one of relatively few men in his company to survive on the steady drive to liberate Rome from Axis control.

After the war, he returned to Alabama. For a time, he worked with his brother as a plumber before going to work for U.S. Steel in Birmingham, where he retired at age 62.

“He’s had a very good retirement,” said daughter-in-law Shirlee Ausman.

“He’s been retired now longer than he worked. What has kept him going so long is that he’s so service oriented. He loves to help other people. He was very good at odd jobs like repairing furniture for people.”

Ausman has lived in the Valley since 1999. He worked part-time at Taunton’s until it closed and then drove for Steve Thompson at Langdale Motor Company.

“Papa is all about helping people,” Shirlee Ausman said.

“It made him so happy that all these people came out today. This is what he wanted to do, and we are so glad it turned out so well.”