McCrabb: As this Middletown man turns 100, let his life be an inspiration

Tracy and Nina Isaacs will celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary on Feb. 15, 2020. They are beloved by their neighbors on Mallard Court in Middletown. RICK McCRABB/STAFF
Tracy and Nina Isaacs will celebrate their 74th wedding anniversary on Feb. 15, 2020. They are beloved by their neighbors on Mallard Court in Middletown. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

It’s difficult to tell what’s more unbelievable: His age or the years he’s been married.

Tracy Isaacs would win the largest stuffed animal at the county fair’s “Guess Your Age” booth.

“75?” the forecaster may guess.

“Not even close,” Isaacs may respond. “Heck, son, I’ve been married almost that long.”

Both are true.

On Monday, Isaacs, a World War II Army veteran, will celebrate his 100th birthday, and on Feb. 15, 2020, he and his wife, Nina, will mark their 74th wedding anniversary. He robbed the cradle, Isaacs did. His wife is only 92.

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When Isaacs, wearing a Pledge of Allegiance T-shirt, answered his front door recently, he could see by my expression that I was shocked by his youthful appearance. He was wearing no glasses, not using a wheelchair, cane or walker. His handshake was firm.

“Most people can’t believe,” he said of his age. “They expect to see an old, dried up, wrinkled man.”

He’s anything but. He mowed his grass until this year, and he renewed his driver’s license last week for another four years. Four years ago, days before his 96th birthday, he passed his test and told the Bureau of Motor Vehicles clerk, “See you in four years.”

He’s a man of his word.

He played softball until he was 56, then took up golf when he was 70. He played weekly with three guys until he was 90 and his legs became too weak.

Longevity is in his genes. His dad lived to be 87, his mother 90 and his sister 96. He has two children: Linda Ross, 70, and Philip, 63. Another secret to a long life? Isaacs never touched tobacco or booze.

Only three hip replacements — two on his left side, one of his right — have slowed him down. He cooks most of the meals at home, and when soup beans, cornbread and peach cobbler are on the menu, he makes enough for his close neighbors on Mallard Court.

No wonder they planned to throw him a 100th birthday party Saturday, and one neighbor gave him a baseball hat inscribed: “Mayor of Mallard Court.”

The neighbors periodically check on the couple, and if they’re not seen for a day or two, the neighbors call or stop by. They’re cherished.

“I should be so lucky,” neighbor Pat Glynn said when asked about the couple. “To have that kind of love after all those years. There is nobody that doesn’t like these two people.”

Added another neighbor, Scott Shores: “Wouldn’t trade them for the world. They are amazing.”

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They’re from Irvine, Ky. He moved to Ohio when he was 3 because his father found railroad work in Sharonville. He attended Lemon-Monroe High School for one year, then moved to Indiana to live with his aunt. He graduated from Tanger High School in 1940.

The following year, he joined the U.S. Army and served in the South Pacific with the 37th Ohio Division, 147th Infantry for 4 1/2 years. He enlisted on Jan. 21, 1941 and was discharged June 25, 1945.

“Dates I’ll never forget,” he said.

After the war, Isaacs worked at NCR in Dayton for 30 years, retiring in 1975 because he was about to be laid off. He later worked for a friend’s furniture business and served as maintenance supervisor for six years at Breiel Boulevard Church of Church, where the couple attend.

He was asked the key to a happy marriage.

“Listening to what she says,” he said.

“I’ve heard that lots of times,” she said.

He kept right on talking.

“People often have asked me who’s the boss around here,” he said. “Both of us.”

Then he clarified: “When she’s gone, I’m the boss, but when we’re both home, she’s the boss.”

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They met at a high school football game in Irvine, Ky., when he was visiting family. He saw her sitting a few rows in front of him, so he did what any man in love would do. He tossed popcorn at her.

It worked. They dated for two years until the frequent drives from Ohio to Kentucky became too much.

“I’m wearing out cars running back and forth to Kentucky,” he told her.

Later, Isaacs was questioned about what he considers most impressive: Being 100 years old or being married for nearly 75 percent of your life.

“Both,” he said with a smile.