Of the many opinions that exist regarding life’s essence, there remains one indisputable fact; change is inevitable.
Over the past century, America has experienced many shifts; from brave patriots who ventured toward the stars; to societal upheavals that altered the fabric of our Nation; to the advent of the World Wide Web and so much more. There are few who can say they’ve lived through all these advancements but that doesn’t apply to U.S. Army Veteran Edward Malloy.
On Aug. 8, Malloy celebrated his 102 birthday while surrounded by his surrogate family at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s Community Living Center (CLC).
“I was brought to the CLC in 2020 for an operation and I’ve been here ever since,” Malloy shared. “The staff here are very professional and compassionate. They’ve been a huge help to improving my skills and helping me adjust my way of thinking.”
The Michigan native credits Bay Pines VA’s recreational therapy program with helping him maintain his zest for life. Although staff work to nurture his positive outlook, those closest to Malloy say that quality is innate.
“My father is a special guy,” Lynn Rae Martin, Malloy’s daughter and only child, stated fondly. “Growing up, I spent so much time with him, so we’ve always been close. Even now when I tell him about my struggles, he reminds me to just take it day by day. To see him constantly striving toward achievement while rarely getting discouraged, reminds me of how capable I am.”
Malloy’s drive toward greatness is evidenced by the trajectory of his life. In 1942 at just 21 years young, and armed with an awareness of the strife brought on by the global conflict the world had descended into, Malloy chose to quit his job and enlist in the Army.
“I joined the military because I felt that it was my responsibility to provide what I could to help our country,” Malloy shared. “My favorite part of being a soldier was being able to help my Nation as well as the camaraderie I found with my fellow men in the service.”
Malloy served as a gun and weapons repair sergeant during his four-year enlistment, which included service in World War II where he was wounded. For his sacrifice, he was awarded two purple hearts and earned two bronze stars. “I’m proud to have served my country. Still, the depth and the loss of life that occurred during all our engagements with the enemy stays with me.”
After leaving the service, Malloy pursued his education and ended up becoming an executive engineer at General Motors, where he helped design parts for the race cars and provided instruction to fellow engineers. When asked about his time with the automotive company, the eldest of five shared what impacted him most.
“When you create something, you start with a thought, organize your materials, and then you apply yourself to the creation of that thought,” Malloy said. “Each day, you work with the material you have available and, with the help of the people you’re working with, you’re able to create something that can be shared with many people.”
Malloy still enjoys creating but, these days, invention has taken on a different form. Now, he spends his days crafting various wooden projects from start to finish. To date, he’s created more than 300 small, wooden boxes and distributed them to his fellow Veterans.
“He really is somebody who needs a purpose and has challenged us as a community to really change the way we create an environment of care for our residents,” Bay Pines VA’s Lead Recreation Therapist at the CLC, Jenny Campbell shared. “He was really the first person who we realized needed his own independent space and he gave us an opportunity to create an area where he was fully independent of us.”
Campbell continued, “He really likes to create joy for people, and be part of his community. His biggest goal is to show that he can make valuable contributions to others.”
Malloy never imagined that he’d live this long, but he’s grateful to be here and looks forward to the years to come.
“It’s amazing, when you look around and see the people who you’re interacting with every day and how your life is affecting them and how they have helped you to get where you are,” Malloy marveled. “My secret to a long life; stay busy and keep looking ahead. What’s behind you is behind you, so continue looking forward and apply yourself accordingly.”