By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
ALLEN PARK – Longtime Allen Park resident Dean Gettemy celebrated his 100th birthday July 26 at Beaumont Commons-Dearborn with a drive-by parade, and a proclamation and state flag from the governor.
Gettemy, and his wife, Jean, who will celebrate their 70th anniversary this fall, watched in delight, with their daughter, Barb Gettemy of Clinton Township, as friends and well-wishers from Allen Park First Presbyterian Church and the local Kiwanis International chapter drove by in decorated cars honking horns, waving and offering enthusiastic yet socially distanced smiles and greetings.
Following the parade, Fran Babbage of the local Kiwanis International chapter of which Gettemy is a member presented him with a tribute, signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist II and 13th District state Rep. Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park), who is also a Kiwanis member, along with a Michigan state flag which was flown over the state capitol.
Gettemy, who was born in Altoona, Pa., served in the in the U.S. Army during World War II, from 1943 to 1952, with the 36th Evacuation Hospital, and with food inspection and veterinary and administrative services after Japan’s surrender.
Using the G.I. Bill, Gettemy earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics, and worked for 35 years for Conrail and CSX in the Railroad and Perishable Inspection Agency.
He and his wife have three children and two grandchildren.
Babbage said Gettemy has been active with Kiwanis for many years, and used to ride his bicycle to Kiwanis meeting when he still lived in Allen Park.
“He did all kinds of projects with us,” she said. “He’s so sharp – I hope I can do that.”
Parade participant Margaret Pagnucco, who has known Gettemy through Kiwanis and as a fellow member of Allen Park First Presbyterian Church, said Dean seems to know everyone in Allen Park.
“He participated in the auxiliary police, he was in WWII, and he loved kids,” she said. “He donated so much toward scholarships. It was amazing.”
Pagnucco said Gettemy often came up with unique ideas during Kiwanis meetings.
“He has lived for a century because he has been dedicated to helping others,” she said. “He has been a kind person as long as I have known him.”
Kiwanian Kathy Yokley said Gettemy is a wise and loving person.
“He appreciates every single day and makes the best of every day,” she said.
Margo Davis, the financial secretary of Allen Park First Presbyterian Church, said the drive-by parade was planned by fellow Kiwanis friend Don Yokley, who recruited Gettemy’s friends to participate.
“(Gettemy) takes an interest in everyone, he’s curious, and his curiosity has kept his mind sharp,” she said. “He’s someone who loves life, loves people and grabs hold of every minute and makes everything special.”
Gettemy said his secret to living to be 100 may be partly genetic, since his mother lived into her 90s.
His friend and fellow Beaumont Commons resident Angie Taylor said his involvement in many activities contributes to his longevity.
Jean Gettemy said they have enjoyed trips to Europe and the Holy Land, as well as Aruba and the Panama Canal.
Barb Gettemy said good clean living has contributed to his longevity, which included a good diet, caring about others, being active in the community and having many hobbies, as well as his faith, which have kept him happy and healthy.
Growing up, she said her father took their family on many nice trips and vacations, which included camping trips.
Jean Gettemy said that she learned, after 70 years with her husband, that “some days are good, and some days are bad.”
She said they try hard to be patient with each other, even when it isn’t easy.
However, Dean Gettemy’s friend Don Yokley said Dean is always “a true gentleman.”
“So many people here are from the Greatest Generation,” he said. “I wish my mind was as sharp as his is.”
Yokley said Gettemy is caring and appreciative, was always actively involved with Kiwanis projects and is very civic-minded.
“I am glad that we got a beautiful day and such a great response to this from the community,” he said. “It just shows you how much he is loved and respected.”