Parade of a lifetime
MANISTIQUE – For the first time in his life, 102-year-old Matthew J. Weber will be in a parade Saturday. But not for just any reason – he will be marshal for Manistique’s annual Independence Day parade.
When informed about his upcoming role, Weber was reluctant in accepting the honor – an immediate display of his humble personality.
Weber, born on Dec. 9, 1909, has lived his whole life in Schoolcraft County, with the exception of two tours in the U.S. Army.
“I was born in the country, up on the River Road, in fact, that’s where I live now,” Weber explained in a recent interview. “My dad and mother came from Germany and they homesteaded up in Manistique Township.”
One of 15 children, Matt was the last to leave his mother, who moved into town after he was drafted into the Selective Service.
“The first draft was before there was any war, and they called it Selective Service, so we registered in 1940, in October,” he said. “They picked my name in December, but we didn’t go until April.”
While drafted during peace time, Weber served from April to Nov. 1941, returning home when he was 28.
“I got home; I was too late for deer season,” he said with a laugh. “Pearl Harbor was on Dec. 7, so I At left, Matthew J. Weber is shown at the U.S. Army’s Camp Forrest, in Tennessee in April 1942. At right, Weber is shown in a photo taken recently. At 102 years old, Weber will, for the first time, participate in a parade Saturday. He will serve as the parade’s marshal. got a call right back.”
Despite his call back, Weber said there were enough volunteers in the service, so he didn’t actually depart until April Fool’s Day in 1942. First stationed in his former unit in Louisiana, Weber then spent time in a division in Pennsylvania. Eventually, he ended up in England and Wales, as part of an engineer depot company.
After two years overseas, Weber explained the war ended, and he was able to return home with 56 months of total service under his belt.
“I went back to my former job. I worked for the Schoolcraft County Road Commission,” he said. “That’s the only place I’ve worked, outside of the army. I started out of high school, and I came back and retired from there.”
Starting out as a common laborer, driving trucks and operating equipment, Weber eventually made his way into the office, and retired as superintendent/manager in 1971 – following 42 years of employment.
Another accomplishment was his marriage. Upon returning from the army, Weber married Frances (Klarich) Weber. The couple bought property, built a home, and had two children – Jim and Mary.
“We lived almost 59 years together, and she died when she was 92 years old,” he said. “We weren’t chickens, either, when we got married.”
A lifetime member of the VFW, former Knights of Columbus member, avid gardener, and a committed member of the St. Francis de Sales Catholic Church, Weber has stayed active. His active nature is another prominent feature of his personality.
“My wife used to say, ‘Once an adult, twice a child,” he explained.
In fact, the “halfway to 103” year-old just recently gave up his driver’s license.
“At 102, I never renewed my driver’s license – it was time for me to quit, while I was ahead,” he said with a smile. “I never had a traffic ticket in my whole life.”
Since giving up his license, Weber explained it has been difficult getting used to relying on others.
“That’s the worst thing about getting old – you have to have someone wait on you,” he said.
Despite this sentiment, Weber takes pride in the fact that he still lives in the same house that he built all those years ago.
“I never left here …because I like to live up here,” he said. “It wasn’t the best of opportunities, but, it’s where I like to live.”
This year’s parade is July 7 at 12:30 p.m.