Tags: Admiral McCain, Armed Forces Retirement Home, Chief Steward, Lorenzo Senires, world war II
We’re always told that life is short and we should appreciate each and every day we have on this earth. But, sometimes we are reminded that a lifetime can be very long, and that the daily stresses of our lives today will eventually fade into a distant memory. Spending some time at retirement home, especially one that cares for veterans, reinforces that lesson.
The Armed Forces Retirement Home is a pastoral oasis nestled in the heart of urban D.C. It has a storied past that dates back to 1851, when it was established as the “U.S. Military Asylum” in what was then a rural area of Washington, D.C. Among its historic buildings is a cottage that was used by President Lincoln as a summer getaway. But some of the best stories at the Home come from its residents. This week, the oldest one celebrated his 105th birthday. Navy Chief Steward Lorenzo Senires, who was born on August 10, 1905, was joined at a ceremony attended by his sons, grandchildren and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick West, as well as a team of Seabees who were on hand to dedicate a ship’s anchor they recently planted on the grounds of the Home. Lauding this Navy veteran’s longevity, the story of his life was recounted by David Watkins, director of the Home’s Washington campus. A Philippine immigrant who came to the U.S. as a stowaway on a cruise ship, Senires was hired by an American housewife to be a “houseboy” for her. Her husband, a naval officer, was either overtly or obliquely influential because Senires enlisted in the Navy in 1926. He failed his first medical entrance exam because he did not weigh at least 100 pounds.
Senires served under Adm. John McCain on USS Nitro (AE-2) 1932-33 and says that he voted for Senator McCain for president because he had so much respect for his grandfather. He also served on USS Indianapolis (CA-35) before Pearl Harbor and lost many shipmates when the ship was sunk several years later. He was later assigned as a steward to a naval officer in Washington, D.C., and remained there for the majority of World War II. Senires obviously made a strong professional impression during this stint, as his son Dave Senires recalls his dad telling him that he later spent some time working for President Truman, fishing with him on the presidential yacht Sequoia and at Truman’s “Little White House” in Key West.
For those of us who have lived for less than a century, centenarians like Senires give us some perspective on our own lives. Think about how much change he has seen in his life: World War I and World War II, Pearl Harbor and 9-11, the advent of flight, computers, changes in race relations, the women’s movement, rock ‘n’ roll – the list is endless. What does it feel like to look back on a century of living? Senires is a bit hard of hearing now, but seems to have most of his faculties and certainly has retained his sense of humor – something many elderly people say is the key to surviving old age. When his son asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he answered unequivocally that he wanted a young woman and his driver’s license.