He’s in good humor at 102
Guido Bagett said Saturday that turning 102 is just about everything it’s cracked up to be.
“I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like,” Bagett said. “I guess I’ll found out. If this birthday doesn’t work out for me, why, I’ll be dead,” he joked.
Turns out there’s few complaints from the Italian immigrant who passed through Ellis Island, N.Y., as an infant.
“I’ll probably think of one before I turn 120,” he said.
Bagett recalls enduring two weeks in quarantine at the immigrant inspection station before being allowed to leave for Carbondale, where his father homesteaded years before in anticipation of bringing the family to Colorado.
A successful meat cutter and shop owner, Bagett’s father passed down a work ethic that Bagett, in turn, passed on to his children, daughter Karen Aielo said.
All three siblings sat with their father for an interview at Veterans Affairs Medical Center on Saturday, which was lucky, since Bagett tends to play down his accomplishments.
A black-and-white portrait of the trio’s parents smiling and embracing watched over the gathering.
After everything Bagett has accomplished in his life, having his children near as he turns 102 years old means more to him than anything, he said.
Bagett is a cool cat. Few remain on the planet who can recall most of the pivotal events of the 20th century from personal life experience, starting with World War I.
He remembers going outside to fire off a shotgun with his father to celebrate the armistice when it started on Nov. 11, 1918.
He survived the Spanish flu epidemic that killed millions through 1919, came of age during the Great Depression, loved only one woman, the mother of his children, and parted with her only after 74 years of marriage when she passed away six years ago.
He recalls her with great emotion to this day.
His first car was a Model T and the first phone he owned had to be hand-cranked and could not call long distance.
Like most Depression-era Americans, he knows the value of a dollar.
Guido Bagett’s father taught him honesty, integrity and good business ethics, other traits he passed to his children, said son Richard, an honorably discharged Marine veteran.
Bagett volunteered for the U.S. Army during World War II at age 32 at a time when he had two children and could have been exempted from the draft.
In December 1944, he faced down bloody cruelty as a security sniper on troop trains with Gen. George S. Patton’s Third Army during the race to break the 101st Airborne Division free from Bastogne, Belgium.
He watched over fellow soldiers from a car at the front of the train.
Bagett kept his war stories secret for nearly 70 years before finally starting to unburden himself in 2009, daughter Beverly Hensley said.
“The cruelty was unbelieveable,” Bagett said, recalling how parachuting soldiers were shot dead by the Germans as soon as they touched ground.
His greatest regret from World War II might be the change in war priorities that took him within 50 miles of the family homestead in Gialamberto, Italy, but denied him the pleasure of seeing it when orders came down that eventually shipped him to Japan.
After the war, he managed a Coca-Cola distribution plant in Steamboat Springs for 13 years, then switched teams after the Steamboat plant sold and ended up managing the Pepsi Cola plant in Grand Junction for several more.
“I think Coke’s still the best,” he said, two days before he was to celebrate the 102nd anniversary of his birth.
For long life, he recommends regular meals consisting of crackers, sausage and cheese, with plenty of trout, elk and duck, preferably fished or shot by one’s own hands.
Also, good genetics.
A big fan of the Make a Wish Foundation, Bagett urged well-wishers to make donations to the charity in his name in lieu of birthday gifts.
Turning deaf ears to Bagett’s request, the veteran’s many friends and family, including The Home Depot and several VA employees, are giving the avid gardner today some planters so he can raise tomatoes and other vegetables this summer, Veterans Affairs spokesman Paul Sweeney said.