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100th birthday brings back fond memories

BRADENTON

Lamar Timmerman Graham renewed his driver’s license on his birthday Tuesday.

Cost $50.

“I told the girl I can remember I used to get my license for 50 cents,” he said.

“I bet you can,” she told him.

Graham turned 100.

He plans to be around to renew his license in 2015, too.

“I sure am,” he said.

What spunk.

That’s what folks say about Graham, who summered with grandparents in Bradentown before his family moved here in 1922.

Ask Mary Jo Willis.

Her parents, Judge Robert and Dorothy Willis, double-dated with Lamar and Edith Graham when they were all in their early 20s.

“I don’t now anyone his age who comes across as being so much younger, because of his attitude, his physicality, his sense of humor,” said Willis, 66. “He seems 20 years younger than he is.

“And what a memory.”

He remembers caddying for department store founder Bob Beall.

He also remembers the people and places in the dining room photo gallery of old Bradenton at Bob Evans Restaurant on 14th Street.

“It’s definitely enlightening to have people like him who can tell you that history,” server Fred Prieto said.

That’s dad, said daughter Dee Graham, 57.

“You don’t have to get old unless you choose to age,” she said. “He takes things in stride and keeps on going.”

The son of parents who lived into their 90s has gone pretty far, too.

n Although born in Fitzgerald, Ga., Graham is a 13th generation Floridian and member of the Los Floridanos Society, whose Spanish ancestors settled Florida.

He and his wife, now deceased, traced that lineage to 1602 in St. Augustine, even traveling to Spain to research it.

“It’s good family history to know, but I don’t want to brag about it,” Graham said.

Gary Mormino did it for him.

“Lamar is in a small fraternity, perhaps a few hundred,” said the professor of history and Florida studies at the University of South Florida-St. Petersburg. “His ancestors were celebrating their 15th Thanksgiving in St. Augustine by the time the pilgrims at Plymouth colony ‘originated’ the holiday.”

n Graham has lived in the same house on the corner of 26th Street West and 16th Avenue West since 1950. He purchased the property before that for $1.

“I bought it as an investment and didn’t want to live here because it was too far from town,” he joked. “When I moved to Bradenton, there were no stop signs, no traffic lights, no traffic at all.”

n A leftfielder for Bradenton High School’s baseball team, the 1931 BHS graduate once played in an exhibition game at McKechnie Field against Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees.

The legendary Yankee slugger played right field, then left field, Graham said.

“We were used to big league teams coming down here, so it seemed like just another game then,” he said. “I look back now and think it really was a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”

Vin Mannix, local columnist, can be reached at 745-7055, or write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, Fl. 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com.

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