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Raymond Monroy of St. Helena celebrates 108th birthday

Raymond Monroy of St. Helena celebrates 108th birthday

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Raymond Monroy through the years

Raymond Monroy turned 108 on Tuesday. Top row from left: Monroy at age 14 in Shively, California; Raymond and his wife Mary in St. Helena, circa 1941; Monroy at far right at Shively Middle School Graduation, 1928. Bottom row from left: Monroy as a high school senior in Fortuna, 1931-1932; Monroy serving in the military in 1943 in La Junta, Colorado; Monroy in 2019.

St. Helena resident Raymond Monroy said Monday was his greatest birthday ever.

And coming from a man who’s had 108 of them, that’s saying something.

At noon on Monday, members of the St. Helena Police Department drove past Monroy’s house, the officer in the lead car singing “Happy Birthday” over his loudspeaker. Fire trucks followed close behind, sounding their sirens for Monroy, who sat in his driveway with his family.

When Monroy was born on May 11, 1912, William Howard Taft was headed for defeat to Woodrow Wilson in the November presidential election, newspapers were still full of news about the Titanic disaster of the previous month, and the Ottoman Empire A) still existed and B) was at war with Italy.

“The Yaqui Indians were my playmates,” Monroy recalled to his family, when asked about his earliest recollection of his childhood in Southern Arizona.

“I could see the Indian campfires up in the hills,” Monroy said.

Asked about his secret to long life, he said, “my great family.”

Monroy was born in Douglas, Arizona, and moved to Shiveley, California as a child. He graduated from Humboldt County Schools and bought a home on Sulphur Springs Avenue in 1933. In 1949, he built the house next door where he still lives.

Monroy’s son William credited his father’s longevity to an active family life and an “amazing immune system.”

“He bounces back so quickly whenever he gets sick or gets a cut,” William Monroy said.

In a 2006 interview, Raymond Monroy told the Star about running the Beringer bottling room, working on Liberty ships at Mare Island and later serving as a flight engineer during World War II.

At 30 years old in 1942, Monroy was the “old man” in a unit dominated by 19- and 20-year-olds. While island-hopping in the Pacific to work on planes, the B-25 he was flying in was shot down. Monroy was rescued and got through the war in one piece, later resuming his old job at Mare Island and then getting a job as flight engineer at Fairfield Air Base (now Travis).

He commuted between St. Helena and Fairfield for 24 years. After retiring from that job, he used his knowledge of Spanish to get work as an aide at St. Helena High School, a court interpreter, and a translator of the state’s vehicle code handbook from English to Spanish.

Monroy was married to his wife, Maria, for 70 years until her death in 2011. He has seven children, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

You can reach Jesse Duarte at 967-6803 or jduarte@sthelenastar.com.

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