Streator WWII Vet Celebrates 100th BirthdayJul 12, 2017
Max Barton was thrown two birthday parties this year. And why not?
The Streator World War II veteran turned 100 years old Wednesday, but as Max was wished a happy birthday, he responded jokingly he "turns 1 tomorrow."
Friends and family members joined him for the big day at Streator's McDonald's with some chocolate birthday cake and balloons. Max is a morning regular at the McDonald's.
Employees of SOCU led by CEO Kathy Lucas surprised him at the restaurant with 10 balloons filled with $10 apiece to mark the century milestone.
On Sunday, Max celebrated with an open house at the Streator Eagles Club where more than 100 people attended.
Max served in the U.S. Air Force in the Southwest Pacific during the war as a supply sergeant, handling the ammunition. He was a member of the Flying Aces.
He recalled Wednesday the USO often came to entertain the troops and he met many dignitaries, including John Wayne and Bob Hope.
Max traveled on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., two years ago and has been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars since 1946.
A baseball fan, Max revealed he had an autograph of former Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher Fergie Jenkins on the bottom brim of his hat.
"I once met Babe Ruth," he boasted, recalling the time the "Sultan of Swat" invited him into the dugout for autographs at Wrigley Field.
"I wish I still had that one. It would be worth a lot of money."
Max played semi-professional baseball for Streator area teams, noting he was the type of pitcher that loved to throw "junk," including screwballs and knuckleballs.
"I hurt my wrist and it didn't heal properly," Max said. "That allowed me to throw my screwball."
Max also talked about his love for painting. He teaches a class of children in East Peoria. He said some of his recent paintings were of a cardinal and scenes from the Rocky Mountains and Mississippi River.