WWII veteran celebrates 100th birthday, shares key to a long life
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A Middle Tennessee World War II veteran has just celebrated his 100th birthday in Rutherford County.
Darlene Miller spoke with FOX 17 News on Tuesday amid reports a 99-year-old veteran made a stop to Tennessee in an effort to meet all 50 governors of all 50 states.
Miller says her father Jimmie McKnight celebrated his 100th birthday on June 7th, marking a huge milestone for a man who served in the Army's Field Artillery Battalion of the 35th Infantry.
Miller says her father served in active campaigns in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes, and Central Europe. Having a background in surveying work, McKnight was tasked with designating where massive pieces of artillery such as the Howitzer should be placed.
McKnight would be coy about sharing details to his 7 children but Miller says he opened up over the years. "He would tell us how the whole ground would shake when planes flew overhead and bombs were dropped," says Miller. "He was in foxholes and saw some of his fellow servicemen die. He never considered himself a hero because he got to come home."
Miller says McKnight came back home where he worked as a teacher and in various capacities with MTSU and the TVA in Hartsville, before he retired. Through it all, McKnight tended to 400 acres of farmland which includes a family farm in Rutherford County just off Highway 96.
McKnight was married for 70 years and Miller says his second love was raising Tennessee Walking horses. In his lifetime, McKnight has raised 150 Tennessee Walkers.
His daughter says dad had plenty to keep him busy but the loss of his wife in 2013 started a decline in his health. Miller says he took the passing of his 70 year partner hard and his struggle with dementia worsened. Six months later, McKnight went into assisted living.
Despite his declining health, Miller says her father "still has plenty of sass" and enjoys his 12 grand kids and 17 great-grandchildren.
Miller says her father has one key to living a long life..."you don't drink and you don't smoke."