By BOB WATSON
Former long-time Savanna café owner Joe Flies Sr. celebrated his 100th birthday Thursday, Feb. 14, enjoying a specially made cake and visiting with friends at JC Carey Motors in Savanna.
And then the affable and remarkably spry centenarian made the trip to the state driver's license facility in Chadwick where he planned to get his driver's license renewed.
The outgoing, energetic Flies, with his engaging smile and twinkle in his eye, said he was in the café/restaurant business for 52 years, including 31 years in Savanna. His café was located at the Illinois 64-84 intersection and he also owned and operated the Indian Head Supper Club at one time.
"I made gobs of money, had lots of good friends and loved the people of Savanna," said the chatty Flies while sitting at a table in the showroom at JC Carey Motors. A specially-made birthday cake, courtesy of long-time friend JC Carey, was sitting at a nearby table. A steady stream of well-wishers stopped by his table to say hello and extend happy birthday greetings.
Flies, who now lives on his own in Fulton, said his first café was in "downtown Hanover" and that he used to offer a $1 breakfast in his early days that included eggs, ham, potatoes and coffee.
Joe and his wife, Betty Fay, were married for nearly 72 years before her death June 14, 2010. They had four children and his family now includes 11 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
"They're scattered all over," Joe said with a smile.
He recalled that he was 16 when he met Betty, who was 14 at the time. They started dating a year later and were married in 1942 when he was 21 and she was 18.
He attributes his longevity and good health to diet and exercise. He said he rode his bicycle 4,000 miles last year and also rides a stationary bike at home during the winter months as well as walking outside and using a treadmill in bad weather.
Every day he drinks several tablespoons of water mixed with cider vinegar and also has nine gin-soaked raisins throughout the day. He also cooks fresh asparagus, which he then mixes in a blender, refrigerates and later drinks.
"I also eat lots of veggies, chicken and pork," he said, adding, "I quit smoking when I was 63, but I had my share years ago."
Joe, who retired from the café business at the age of 78, said he hopes to live to be at least 108. That specific age stems from an accident he had when he was 80.
"I told the Lord that I would say the Rosary daily the rest of my life, and would keep saying it if I live to be 108," said Joe, who served 18 1/2 months in the U.S. Army during World War II.
As a testament to his good health, Flies, who drives a 2017 car, said he’s talking to JC about buying a new vehicle.
A good sense of humor is another trait Joe says has served him well, not only in the restaurant business, but also in life in general.
"I'm always happy," he said, "it don't cost anything."