It was a birthday party that almost did not happen - not because William "Bill" Mohr was turning 104. But, because, to get to that milestone he first had to overcome a near deadly ailment as a toddler, and years later survive World War II battle.
Mohr, thought to be the second-oldest WWII veteran in the U.S., celebrates his 104th birthday on Oct. 22. The birthday party held the day before was attended by family, friends, and dignitaries.
“It was quite a surprise,” Mohr said, delighting in the many visitors who came to his Hatboro home.
State senator Stewart Greenleaf and State Representative Tom Murt each gifted Mohr with a citation from the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.
During the war Mohr served under the late General Omar Bradley, in the 45th Infantry division, and spent the war in Germany, North Africa, France, and Italy, eventually earning the rank of sergeant. He remembers the aerial fights over the Mediterranean between the Germans, British, and Americans. He remembers when he helped liberate the German town of Dachau and the Dachau concentration camp.
He also remembers General George S. Patton: “I met Patton and I’ll tell you what—you don’t forget him, boy!”
Mohr served abroad from 1943 to 1945 and was presented the French award of the Legion of Honor, Chevalier for his help in invading St. Tropez in 1944. He wore the medal at his birthday party.
He married his wife Josephine (Josie) in 1943 and they have four children, William, Jr., Joanne, Gary, and Rick, along with five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They moved to Hatboro in 1926, and Mohr can describe horses and buggies dotting the road, blacksmiths and harness makers. He designed the house that he and his wife still live in today.
This year the Mohrs celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary. “He was a very nice man, he was very good to me. He loved me very much,” said his wife Josie.
After the war he and his twin brother Joseph started a landscaping business called Mohr Brothers Nursery and he later worked at a Hatboro hosiery factory called Oscar Nable. After that he worked at a Warminster machine shop called Pressure Products, where he made machine parts for nuclear generators that powered submarines. Mohr worked until he was 93 and drove a car until he was 97.
A self-published poet, these days Mohr also enjoys doing crossword puzzles and watching “Two and a Half Men” with his wife. He also loves animals. “I would never go hunting again. I would go out with a camera,” he said.
Mohr actually had a rocky start in life at 2 years old when, in 1911, a doctor accidentally cut part of his tongue and throat, leaving him with a speech impediment and difficulty swallowing. In that era of no penicillin, he was expected to die but he instead survived. His father died a year later due to a machine accident.
Despite tragedies and war, said his son Gary, his father remains enthusiastic. “He’s a man with a zest for life, and that’s why I think he’s lived to this age,” he said.