BLOOMINGTON — Between the two brothers, Eldon and Norman Starnes have shared 185 birthdays. Their most recent came this week and, as is their annual custom, they celebrated with family Wednesday afternoon.
For Eldon, it’s far from his favorite day.
“He told me (Tuesday) that he wasn’t going to come because there were going to be too many people there,” said Eldon’s daughter, Julie Morales. “I said well, that’s fine, but then they are just all going to come to your house.”
The family meets every Wednesday for lunch at Shannon's Five Star restaurant, but Eldon does his best to avoid the one surrounding his birthday.
“I’m just not one to like being the center of attention,” he said. “That’s for somebody else.”
However, Eldon has little choice when waitress Kelly Schweizer is around.
“I just love this family and especially Eldon because he is a special guy,” she said. “I’ve been working here for seven years and have become very close with them because they come every Wednesday. They have become very special to me.”
Eldon turned 95 on Tuesday. Norman celebrated his 90th birthday on Sunday. They each live by themselves in Bloomington.
“They both were in World War II, they both live on their own and do their own driving, cooking, shopping and cleaning,” Morales said. “They both are still very sharp. They can’t hear as well as they used to, but Dad went to the doctor the other day and everything looks very good still and we are very grateful for that.”
Eldon admits to being worried each year when it’s time to renew his driver’s license.
“Someday, I’m afraid I’m not going to pass,” he said.
“This family has the best genes though, and I just hope I got enough of those genes to be as active as they are in my 90s,” Morales said. “They both outlived their spouses and have several relatives who lived into their 90s. Now, I’m just hoping he makes it to 100. That would be special.”
“A week later, Pearl Harbor was attacked,” Morales said. “They were only supposed to be in three years, but because of that, they were in for four.”
After his discharge, he worked for Caterpillar in Peoria for 35 years, retiring 35 years ago.
Norman also joined the Army a few years later, but never saw action overseas. He applied for a five-year enlistment and assignment to the European command. He served with the 118th battalion replacement training command.
But Eldon saw plenty of Europe, especially Japan. It was while there that he had one of his fondest memories. A Chicago Cubs fan, he remembers following the 1945 World Series on the radio.
“I remember listening to those games and of course they didn’t win,” he said. “I had to wait a long time for them to get back there again.”
He still remains a huge fan of the team.
“When they do well and win, he wears his Cubs hat,” Morales said. “When they lose, he is disgusted and takes it off.”
“I don’t know what’s going on with them this year,” he said.
Wednesday’s birthday cake had to be split with Norman, a St. Louis Cardinals fan. So, one half was decorated with a Cubs symbol, the other half with a Cardinals logo.
“We don’t fight over that,” Norman said. “We can get along without that.”
Norman, who worked as a delivery driver before retiring about 25 years ago, said he still enjoys being active and able to do things on his own.
“I don’t like people taking care of me,” he said. “That’s for old people.”