Edward Mickaliger has been keeping active all his life. It’s the eve of his 100th birthday and though he’s bound to a wheelchair, he has barely lost a step.
Mr. Mickaliger — he goes by Eddie — is a Riverheader, born and raised. He was born in a farmhouse on Doctor’s Path on April 15, 1913 and grew up in a house near Merritts Pond, between Ostrander and Roanoke avenues, with his father, mother, six brothers and a sister.
The siblings would work in the daytime cutting grass and helping on the farm; at night he and his brothers would sneak out and go fishing in the pond, he said. In the winter, the pond would freeze over.
“We’d pull the ice skates out and have some fun,” he said.
The second-oldest of his siblings, Mr. Mickaliger served as a sergeant in the 29th Infantry of the U.S. Army during World War II, he said. Three of his brothers also served in the military.
He breezes over his time in the service in conversation, casually saying he was injured by shrapnel before moving on to other matters. It’s a long life, after all, and he wants get through to all of it.
After getting home from the war, he joined the Riverhead Fire Department as a firefighter on the Reliable hose and engine company No. 1 with his father and siblings. He worked first for a grocery store, then at the Carl and Bob’s clothing store in downtown Riverhead.
He tells his family that he “went from selling fruit to Fruit of the Loom.” In his free time, he joined the East End Surf Club and loved fishing with his siblings.
Mr. Mickaliger married once, but never had children.
He still keeps busy. His stay in the nursing home is a new — and temporary — measure, he says. Mr. Mickaliger was outside this winter helping a neighbor by shoveling their driveway when he got frostbite, family members said.
He’s been at the nursing home ever since, slowly recovering.
Dozens of family members turned out to wish him happy birthday Sunday afternoon at the nursing home. They laid out a cake on the table, and handed out cookies.
Amidst the celebrations they asked him what he’d like to drink.
“Scotch and water,” he joked.