Grosse Pointe man and WWII veteran attributes 100 years of life to 'clean living'

GROSSE POINTE FARMS, Mich. (FOX 2) - No smoking and no drinking - that's what Larry Bennett attributes to a century of longevity.

"I just tried to live just clean living. It seems to have worked out," he said, with a chuckle.

Bennett isn't 100 years old yet. He officially joins the centenarian club on March 28 but was among friends at the Men's Club of Grosse Pointe Tuesday to celebrate the big day.

But even with his good life decisions, he's still surprised he reached the age. Part of the reason is his time spent during World War II. There were moments when he didn't think he would come home.

"Well when I was in Europe, there were many times when I felt I was not going to return to the United States," he said.

He was drafted into the U.S. Army in March 1943 and by September was overseas. His memory is still sharp and he can replay those moments like they unfolded yesterday.

"We were able to break out of the beachhead, cut the highways, the headed north to liberate Rome," he said.

His service took him to Italy, France, and Germany. His luck ran out when he arrived at a mountain range and was wounded in his left thigh. After a four-month hospitalization, he was back in combat.

It was there that he would experience one of the most memorable experiences.

"I wound up in Salzburg, Austria. After we had taken Nuremberg, I was in an award ceremony - our division band played the Star Spangled Banner and as they played, the American Flag was raised over the Swastika."

He returned to the U.S. via the historic Michigan Central Station. He married his Denby High School sweetheart in 1947 and the two would go on to have two kids as well as employment at the Michigan Bell Telephone Company.

He spent 41 years there.

Over the years, the family added grandkids and great-grandchildren. Bennett was also honored for his military service at the University of Michigan’s Crisler Center. A big party is set for this weekend to celebrate Bennett’s birthday and all his achievements.