By John Martin
Dr. Gerald Hefley remembers:
1. His childhood days in Fort Scott, Kansas
2. Soldiers coming home from World War I,
3. The Depression
4. Coming to Midwest City in 1950 to establish his optometry practice (but unable to find office space),
5. Joining Oak Tree Country Club and
6. Getting a hole in one at Oak Tree in 1978 at the tender age of 62.
But all these memories pale in comparison to the celebration and his unbridled joy at the (sorta) surprise birthday party in honor of his 100th birthday Tuesday with an overflow crowd at the Midwest City Whattaburger.
“This is unbelievable. They told me we were going to have a little party of our Morning Coffee Club. Guess you never get too old for surprises,” he said.
Dr. Hefley is a charter member of the original Conrad Marr Coffee Club which has ended up at Whattaburger after stops at both Conrad Marr locations, McDonald’s, Monroe’s and Burger King (it burned down!!).
Dr. Hefley was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, on Sept. 4, 1916 and had one brother and one sister. He described his dad’s occupation as “…he was really a cowboy but made his living repairing furnaces.”
The family later moved to Kansas City and Dr. Hefley eventually came to Oklahoma City University for one year.
“I enjoyed the social life of a college student, but then I decided (with a little help from my parents) to start thinking about a career. That’s when I decided to transfer to Southern College of Optometry in Memphis and that’s where I got my degree.
“I knew Midwest City was growing and was scheduled to really expand so I looked for a place to set up my practice. No luck. They were too busy building houses,” he recalled.
In 1952, he found space in the old post office building on Key Blvd. just south of 15th Street and finally found permanent space at SE 29 and Air Depot near the current location of FNB Community Bank.
“Right across the street from Potter’s Drive In, one of the most popular places in town. It was easy to give directions to my office. Just tell ‘em across the street from Potter’s, everyone knew where that was,” he added.
SHOOTING HIS AGE
He retired permanently to the golf course in 1982 and enjoys an accomplishment that may be headed for the Guinness Book of Records. He has shot a lower score than his age 400 times.
“Of course, it got easier as I got older. My golf game got a little better, but most of those times came after I got into my 80s’,” he laughed.
In addition to the birthday party given by Whattaburger, members of the Coffee Club brought some snacks, cards and presents.
Midwest City Mayor Matt Dukes read a proclamation declaring Sept. 6, 2016 as Dr. Gerald Hefley Day in Midwest City in honor of his 100th birthday.
Roy Thornton, president of the Midwest City Kiwanis Club, presented Dr. Hefley a pin honoring him as the only surviving charter member of the Club, where Hefley served as President and chair of the annual fundraising pancake breakfast.
Rep. Gary Banz, executive director of the Honor Flight program for World War I and II veterans, presented a packet of memorabilia to Dr. Hefley in honor of his service. Also honored was legendary Midwest City coach and teacher Bob Ambler, who recently celebrated his 91st birthday.
Dr. Hefley still lives in the Calico Corner Apartments, which he still calls Country Estates Apartments. “Don’t you think that sounds a little more classy?”
His secret for long life is simple.
“I wake up every morning feeling good and then stay busy enough so I won’t have time to feel bad. I’ve cut back on my golf game to about three days a week,” he said.
But with a twinkle in his eye, he waited till the end and made sure everyone was listening to reveal the basic concept of his century of life.
“It’s no big secret. For 40 years, I have taken a dose of fish oil every day,” he concluded to a big round of applause.