James Crafton, know as “Sarge” to his many friends and admirers, wakes up every morning, gets dressed and drives to the Hardee’s on Washington Road.
He doesn’t pause to take his pills. There’s no need. Crafton isn’t on any medication. Instead, he takes time to read the paper and order his favorite breakfast – biscuits and gravy and coffee.
Not bad for a man born the same year the Titanic sank.
Monday, Crafton celebrated his 100th birthday at his breakfast spot. In attendance were family members from as far away as California. Also joining Crafton were Model A owners who share his interest in the classic Fords, and who discuss the state of the world with him each morning over breakfast.
Crafton, an Army medic who served in World War II and the Korean War and retired at Fort Gordon in 1969, lives on his farm not far from the spot where he first entered Georgia in 1950.
“I came over at Furys Ferry,” he said, his voice quiet but clear. “I actually rode the ferry.”
Seated under a matched set of “You’re 50” balloons – the centennial version proved difficult to source – Crafton greeted each well-wisher with poise and the occasional knuckle bump. He did not make much mention of his momentous anniversary, stating that the secret of a long life, for him, was relatively simple.
“You just keep on livin’,” he said. “Keep on livin’ and if you can help yourself, well, you do that too.”
Paul Eubanks, Crafton’s nephew and birthday chauffeur, said Crafton is a wealth of history and knowledge, able to recall, describe and reflect on events that happened long before most of his compatriots at Hardee’s were born. But when asked what 100 years has taught him, Crafton said that the one abiding truth is: Life will always present challenges and rewards, many surprises and far fewer expected outcomes.
“Man knows nothing,” he said. “Man thinks he can control things, can control the solar system, but he can’t.”
The secret he said, is to accept the inevitable.
“I haven’t had anything easy,” he said. “But the Man has brought me through it.”