At 100 years old, Howard "Howie" Carlson was the center of attention during a pair of birthday parties recently.

At 100 years old, Howard "Howie" Carlson was the center of attention during a pair of birthday parties recently. Howie joined the centenarian club Monday, March 16, but the celebrations began Sunday at the Elks Lodge in Osage Beach when family and friends gathered to share best wishes and stories of his 100 years. On Monday, the Lake of the Ozarks Marine Corps League honored him at a special recognition at the Corps' headquarters in Kaiser. At the Elks Lodge, Howie was dapper in his burgundy blazer and powder blue short. His lapel showcased a U.S. Marine Corps pin, a replica of his time in the service during World War II. He never left the states, and served only 18 months before the war ended in 1944. Howie was born during President Woodrow Wilson's administration and has lived to see 17 presidents. He cast his first presidential vote for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, although he says Harry S Truman "was the best of them all." Friends and family trickled into the Lodge, stopped by his table to wish him congratulations and to share an anecdote about his life. "Excuse me for not getting up," he said several times with a smirk as people strolled by. He sipped burgundy wine from a straw, and noted that not only did he enjoy his wine but "I don't pass up a scotch, either," he smiled. Howie quit smoking in 1984 "when they raised the price" to $5 a carton. The key to his longevity? Good genes. Exercise. Proper diet (he doesn't eat too much red meat). He says he used to walk two miles to work as an electrician with W. H. Hutchinson & Sons, a bottling company in the Chicago area. He retired in 1980 at the age of 65. Howie was born in a suburb of Chicago, Ill., and married his late wife, Rosemary, on June 17, 1938. She died a week before her 81sth birthday. "She was a wonderful Italian woman," he said fondly. Flashing his wry sense of humor, Howie said he still does his own cooking and housekeeping, but does need a little help now and then. He gave up his driver's license two years ago - at 98 years old. How did he get from near Chicago to the Lake of the Ozarks? His son-in-law had a meeting at Tan-Tar-A about the same time Howie and Rosemary were thinking about moving from Chicago. They bought a condo in 1985 and moved here permanently after building a home in 1990 adjacent to the Oaks Golf Course. He still lives there. Although his tenure as a Marine was short-lived, Howie has remained a strong supporter of the Corps. He joined the local Marine Corps League eight years ago - at 92. He is the league's official bugler, although Howie admits it's actually a recording with the speaker set in the bell of the instrument. "It's pretend now, you know," he said. "Once you lose your lips, it's hard." Howie is a favorite among the Marine Corps League members. "He's always eager to go in the van with us," League Commander Mike Proctor says. Howie calls bingo when the League makes its quarterly visit to the Veterans Home in St. James. Howie was presented a plaque by State Rep. Rocky Miller during the birthday celebration at the League's headquarters in Kaiser.