Local WW2 veteran turns 100

BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. (WNDU) --- The party of the century took place Wednesday night at Howard Performing Arts Center on the Andrews University campus. Droves of people came to celebrate the former director of the music school and longtime Andrews professor, Paul Hamel, who's turning 100-years-old.

"I have so many friends who don't make it," said Hamel. "But I made it --so far!"

His four surviving sons (one passed away) helped put the party together.

"I think I just grew up in this incredibly blessed environment where we had all these experiences and a guide and a mentor, and you know, that'd be my dream for every kid," said Dr. Gary Hamel, Paul's son.

Not only is Paul Hamel an entrepreneur, author, a pilot, a philanthropist, and a man of faith, he is a World War II veteran, having served in the U.S. Army.

"It's amazing to be the son of a veteran," said Dr. Loren Hamel, M.D. "I mean, that, indeed, was 'The Greatest Generation,' and you can see it in his values. You can see it in his discipline. You can see it in his accomplishments. It's a privilege to have a veteran for a father."

Dr. Loren Hamel's twin brother, Dr. Lowell Hamel, M.D., also expressed gratitude for their father.

"It's just a great delight to serve in a community where I care for patients who routinely tell me some recollection of my father, how they loved him, and how he changed their life years ago," stated Dr. Lowell Hamel, M.D.

Typically one for smaller parties, Paul Hamel embraced the jam-packed auditorium at the performing arts center where the Rodney Marsalis Philadelphia Big Brass band took center stage (Marsalis is the cousin of fellow world-famous trumpeter Wynton Marsalis).

"This is a wonderful party today -- the best I ever had," said Hamel.

Hamel considers marrying his wife, Esther, one of his proudest life moments.

"He doesn't seem 100 to me because we've grown old together," said Esther Hamel.

Paul's actual birthday is Thursday, August 8.