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Louis Goke hit the century mark while he was in Methodist Le Bonheur Germantown Hospital, and his nurses decided this milestone event deserved a celebration. Working with his family, they bought cake and balloons and threw him a party.
“Living to be 100 is something to be celebrated,” said Sherial Camouche, Goke’s case manager. “He was going to have a big party at the retirement community where he lives, but that had to be postponed since he was still in the hospital. We wanted to make sure he had something special on his birthday.”
Eighteen relatives from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee came to town to celebrate this big event. Even his “little” sister at the age of 92 arrived from Wisconsin to help her big brother celebrate turning 100. “I was happy when she was born because people always asked if I was the baby of the family, and I didn’t have to be the baby anymore,” Goke explained.
The family joined the nurses and staff at his hospital room to sing “Happy Birthday” and enjoy some birthday cake. To add to the celebration, Goke was able to return to his retirement community later that day.
Goke was born on a farm near Platteville, Wis., on January 11, 1913. He graduated from high school and received his diploma from the Wisconsin Mining School, the first school in the United States to offer a three-year course in mining engineering. He was employed by the Corps of Engineers in Rock Island, Ill., and moved to Memphis in 1939 where he met and married his wife in 1940. Together they attended Southern Law School, and they passed the bar in 1943. He was working for the Corps of Engineers in Memphis when the Navy drafted him during World War II. He served as a radio technician on the USS Pensacola. After the war, he continued working for the Corps of Engineers until his retirement.
A fond memory from his youth was seeing aviator Ruth Law fly in at the fair in his hometown. Law, who enjoyed one of the longest and most colorful careers of early female aviators, had purchased her first plane from the Wright Brothers and was the first woman to fly at night.
Goke has seen a lot of technological breakthroughs over his lifetime including the development of biplanes with open cockpits to supersonic jets; “horseless carriages” to cars that can park themselves; wooden, wall-hung, crank telephones to hand-held cell phones; and the wireless radio to wireless computers. Add to this the television, the internet, landing the first man on the moon, and amazing medical miracles.
So what’s his secret to living to be 100? “Get to be 99 years old, and then be very careful for another year!”
To this day, Goke is still active and keeps busy. He even drives to the grocery store.