MARQUETTE - Go to the Sunday afternoon dance for seniors at the Trenary Community Building that takes place monthly and you're quite likely to see a dapper gentleman selling tickets at the door.
What you might not guess immediately is that gentleman's age.
The gentleman is Raymond Sischo and the age is 100.
Raymond Sischo poses before a collage of photos in his room at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette with his daughter, Shirley Sischo Powelson. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
He's now a resident at the Jacobetti Home for Veterans in Marquette but that's a recent development, due mainly to eyesight difficulties. Until earlier this year, Sischo lived on his own in Trenary, a place he had called home since 1949.
But Sischo's story actually begins in Wisconsin, where he was born May 4, 1912 as the 10th child in a family that lived in a log cabin in Christie County, Wis.
"Dad actually always thought his birthday was May 5 until he applied for a passport a few years ago and found out he was born May 4," said Sischo's daughter Shirley M. Powelson of Gladstone.
Ray's parents moved to the Ensign-Stonington area of the Upper Peninsula when he was 7.
"I was boarded out so I could walk to school. It was on the Johnson farm," Sischo said. "I was walking to school 3 miles each way, carrying my lunch pail. I walked through the woods for some of the trip."
One of the schools he went to in his youth was in the Maywood District, he said.
"I guess like most boys, I favored arithmetic most of all," Sischo said. "The girls favored writing, I believe."
Learning penmanship via the Palmer Method is a strong memory from his school days, he said.
Sischo found employment during The Great Depression as a deliveryman for a bottled milk company, earning 9 cents a quart, sleeping in the plant's back room. Then, he became a woodsman in the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935, surveying timber for logging.
In 1942, Sischo was drafted into the U.S. Army during World War II.
"Most of the time I was a cook," he said. "I learned to cook in the Army and I didn't like it. I haven't cooked much since I got out. Some days, I'd have to cook for up to 1,400 meals.
"I remember once having to make pancakes for 1,400 men and get them all fed in two hours," he said. "We had hot plates. I could cook 36 pancakes on each. Making that many, that's flipping the pancakes."
He served in the Pacific, in places like New Guinea and Japan. When the war ended, he was in the Philippines, having been part of the Battle of Lingayen.
"But it didn't amount to much. I didn't fire my gun in the four years I was in the service. I brought back the same 105 cartridges they gave me to start. And now my son is just about on that very spot (in the Philippines). My youngest son lives right near there," Sischo said.
It was the war that brought together Sischo and his wife, Luella Hoy.
"Her twin sister saw my military photo in the paper and dared Luella to write to me," he said. "We corresponded for awhile after that. I married her three days after we met in person. We were married for almost 53 years before she died (in 1995)."
The couple had four children, Raymond Jr., Bill (now deceased), Bruce and Shirley.
"My wife had been in Trenary her whole life," Sischo said. "She wanted to live there. So we bought my wife's parents' farm. ... It was the biggest mistake I ever made. We had 13 or 14 (dairy) cows at the time but we still couldn't make a living at it."
To supplement the farm's income, Sischo went on to build boats, make manhole covers and work for Cliffs Dow in Marquette. He especially enjoyed woodworking.
"I was still building homes into my 80s," he said.
When he had any spare time, Sischo loved reading.
"I loved books. My encyclopedias were my favorite," he said.
Sischo also enjoyed his recent participation in the Upper Peninsula Honor Flight, which brings World War II veterans to Washington, D.C.
"That was great," he said. "Seeing the monuments was my favorite part but I liked all of it."
Several celebrations took place to mark Sischo's 100th birthday earlier this year, including a big gathering at the Terrace Bay Inn in Gladstone.
Does he have any words of wisdom about how to live to be 100?
"You've got to be good," he said, smiling. "And you've got to drink a good brand of whiskey. That's what I usually tell everybody."
But his favorite saying of all time, Sischo said: "Fine as frog's hair."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.