Huntsville Resident Celebrates 106th Birthday

HUNTSVILLE - Ennis McGowan turned 106 Tuesday, an occasion celebrated in the afternoon with family and friends, but one in the morning met with a familiar activity: word searches.

"That keeps my mind sharp," he said.

Born and raised in Walker County, McGowan now spends his days in the Huntsville Health Care Center, reading as much as he can and circling words in his puzzle book.

"Nothing ever upset him," niece Effie Booker said. "He always seemed to have led a good life. It's just amazing, that's all I can say."

After McGowen took some calls in the morning, Booker was his visitor, flipping through picture books and watching McGowen circle those words, like "solider" (he was one) and "lunar" (he lived through the first landing.

Saying he's seen a lot would be an understatement, and telling all his stories would be hard to do. He was drafted into World War II and served overseas. He faced issues because of his skin color. But his niece says McGowen's attitude has remained strong all these years.

A fan of Louis Armstrong and BB King and with The Ten Commandments among his favorite movies, McGowen is also a sports fan. He supports the Cleveland Browns, once led by Jim Brown, now led by Johnny Manziel, who hopes to bring the team out of its decades-long woes.

"Maybe they'll win some," he says with a laugh.

McGowen also loves the Dodgers, a team that broke the sports' color barrier, just like one person did for the White House.

"Seeing a black man as president," he recalled, "that's the greatest thing that's ever happened."

As for advice: "I always live by the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated, and honor your mother and father."

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