When Claude Bieschke was a boy, his parents always hung a big American flag out on the front porch on his birthday, which is June 14, Flag Day.
“The flag is near and dear to me,” he said. “That was the only day that we really displayed our flag. We had a big one at home.”
This year, Flag Day will be even more special.
Bieschke, a World War II veteran who lives in Lexington, will turn 100.
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Bieschke said he was among the first soldiers drafted into the Army in 1941, and he served throughout the war.
He was a first lieutenant in charge of a company of 12 to 15 trucks, and his war travels took him to England, France, Germany and other European countries.
“We rode all over the place,” he said. “It was, I would say, good duty, because we didn’t stay in one place very long. …We hauled a lot of people and supplies, anything that was haulable.”
Bieschke grew up in Aurora, Ill., but he ended up in Lexington because it was the hometown of his wife, Kathryn, who died in 2003.
The couple moved to Lexington in 1949 and raised their six children here.
Bieschke attended the University of Kentucky, then went to work in accounting and later sales at Savage Lumber Co., which became Palumbo Lumber.
“I don’t regret any part of my life that I lived,” he said. “We lived comfortably, and I liked what I did.”
Bieschke has lived with his daughter and son-in-law, Louise and Greg Hensley, since 2010. He said he finds plenty to keep himself busy.
He’s made it his job to keep the kitchen clean, he goes for short walks when the weather’s nice, and relatives are always popping in to say hello.
“I do a lot of reading,” Bieschke said.
It’s a pastime he took up later in life, and he keeps careful logs of what he reads — and rereads. Some of his favorites are Tracy Kidder’s “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods,” and Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.”
“I don’t like fiction. It has to be real stuff,” he said. “Up until lately, I used to read two books at once. I’d read one in the daytime and one at night.”
He also works crossword puzzles and watches lots of Lawrence Welk episodes.
When asked what advice he has for living a long life, he said, “Just take each day as it comes. You live each day.”
This weekend, Bieschke’s family plans a big party to celebrate his new status as a centenarian. Nearly all of his 13 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren, plus other relatives and friends, will be there.
“The front yard’s going to be full of flags,” Louise Hensley said.