Local resident celebrates 100th birthday

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Well-wishers from far and wide have sent birthday greetings to Zenas W. Sitze, a Cape Girardeau resident turning 100 years old today.

He was most pleased with two letters he received Wednesday: one from President Bush and first lady Laura Bush, and another from Missouri's Lt. Gov. Joe Maxwell congratulating him.

He received some early Pepsi promotions, including a shirt and hat, for his loyalty to the product over the years but son-in-law GenePulley said, "He told us he can't wear them until his actual birthday."

Sitze was born at home in Bollinger County on June 18, 1904, and lived there until his family moved to Cape Girardeau in 1914, traveling by wagon with a pet cat in a basket. He's lived in Cape Girardeau ever since. He said there was never a reason to leave.

Sitze didn't have much to say about living through the Depression except that his mother and dad knew how to do it.

Sitze described his father, Walter, as a gentle man who never got mad and proudly displayed the his father's collection of wood carvings. The talent, clearly passed down through generations, is evidenced in the intricately designed home furnishings. Longevity is another valuable asset passed on by Sitze's father, who missed the 100 mark by three weeks. Sitze believes his secret to longevity is meanness.

Once active as a wood carver and a hunter, Sitze misses both. A typical day now includes watching baseball and taking a few naps between meals, but there was a time when raccoon, squirrel and fox hunting kept him running.

He lived close to Cape Girardeau's milltown growing up and earned $1 a day making handles at the Hammer Mill in 1919, before child labor laws were in effect.

Too young to serve in World War I and too old for the second, Sitze was later employed at the local shoe factory for 38 years and Mid South Steel for 10.

"I'd rather have good friends than money," Sitze remarked. Today and yesterday, the best days of his life, are just that because he likes to have friends come and see him.

Gene and Judy Pulley, his son-in-law and daughter, will fill their home with 100 helium balloons, banners and four cakes in honor of Sitze's birthday.

The numerals 1,0,0 will fill three cakes; one will be a mock cake so they can fill it with 100 candles...after they turn the oxygen off.

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