This week we kick off a new series called "Young at Heart," focusing on local seniors who are not letting age hinder their zest for life.
Practically every morning, you can find 92-year-old Mervyn Taylor at the Grand Lake Senior Center. "Five days a week as a rule, but bean bag is only one day a week," he said.
Bean bag baseball might be Mervyn's claim to fame now in these parts, but his story is much bigger than that and goes back to the 1920s and 30s in Grand Lake. "I graduated from Grand Lake High in 1939," he said, "then I attended McNeese the first year it was a junior college."
Mervyn was part of the Civil Pilots Training Program. He was set to graduate in May 1943, but he volunteered to serve in World War II and was sent his orders just two months shy of graduation. "I went overseas to the South Pacific," he said.
Mervyn was a P-38 pilot in the Philippines. His first mission was a close call, losing an engine on the way home and having to clear a mountain with a bomb on board. "I had just gotten over the mountain when my engine went out and I was carrying that bomb, so I dropped the bomb in the water and I flew back to base on one engine," he said.
Mervyn is proud of his years in service. He still holds on to a treasured token of his time defending our country. "They give me the Air Medal," said Mervyn.
Once back at home, he was finally able to pop the question to his love, Lerdie. "She was a pretty girl," said Mervyn.
"I just fell in love with him," said Lerdie, "the most gentle, kind person I'd ever met."
Mervyn was 36 years old when life in Cameron Parish would forever change. Hurricane Audrey hit in June of 1957 as a category four storm, killing 400 people, including some of his friends. "Oh, yes. I knew a good many of them," said Mervyn, "we left our home to go to the school here in Grand Lake. If we had stayed home, we would've been better off, because the gym fell at Grand Lake High School."
After Audrey, Mervyn was among those in Cameron Parish to stay. Farming was hard work for Mervyn, Lerdie and their three kids, but the memories still make them smile. "Well, we had 20,000 chickens," said Lerdie. "Wait, 10,000. But, It felt like 20!"
Mervyn sold insurance until he was 70. To this day, he says hard work is what keeps him young. "You need to work. You need to keep working all the time," he said, "and if you're working, you feel a lot better."
When it comes to a marriage of 68 years, Mervyn said husbands should live by these words, "Yes maam and no maam," he said with a laugh.
Mervyn still mows his own big yard, even if the grass has not grown tall. At his doctor's appointment last week, he was told he did better than some 20-year-olds on his stress test.
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