WWII Vet stays active

Andrea Johnson/MDN Ray Curtis, 101, lives at the Wellington in Minot. He says exercise and staying active are important for a healthy life. He is a World War II veteran and is showing pictures of himself taken when he was in the Army during WWII.

Exercise is the key to a long and healthy life, said Ray Curtis, who celebrated his 101st birthday in February.

Curtis, a World War II veteran and retired farmer who resides at the Wellington in Minot, said he has followed the advice his chiropractor gave him years ago to stay fit. Curtis also stays active and interested in life.

“I’ve exercised for the last 50 years,” said Curtis. “I like to play pool. I used to play golf and enjoyed bowling.”

Curtis also still drives, though he said he doesn’t leave home much.

He had an appointment to play pool with a friend at the Wellington in early March.

Curtis said he also loved to read until his eyesight made it difficult. He still enjoys watching television and keeping up with the goings on of his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who call or visit regularly and send him photos.

His father was a homesteader near Portal, where Curtis spent his early years. The family moved to Minot when Curtis was a young boy and he attended the old Lincoln Elementary and graduated from Minot High School in 1935. After high school, he returned to the Portal area and farmed with his brother, but the “Dirty Thirties” made farming difficult. The year 1935 brought crop disease; the year 1936 brought grasshoppers.

“I didn’t much like farming,” he said.

Curtis decided to enlist in the U.S. Army 10 months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and do his required service. After the U.S. entered World War II on Dec. 7, 1941, Curtis was in the service for the duration. He was stationed in different locations.

He was serving in San Francisco when the war started and was later stationed in a number of different locales. He became a commissioned officer and served in Germany after the war ended in Europe. He recalls some hairy situations, including an exchange of gunfire with Russian gang members, people who had been held captive in Nazi Germany and were being guarded by the American soldiers in the days after the war. The Americans were tasked with keeping the Germans out of the Russian area and the Russians from getting out.

Curtis has also written down his experiences during World War II for the benefit of his family and they typed up the account and distributed it.

After the war, he returned home to his wife, Ellen, and their children. It was hard to find work in those years, so he decided to return to farming near Portal. He farmed there until 1983, when he retired and moved to Minot.

He and Ellen had been married for 72 years when she passed away three years ago.

He has five daughters, 10 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren. One of his daughters still lives on the farm near Portal.