William Lankford “Honey” Wilson had just woken up from a Saturday afternoon snooze when his son, Ronald, escorted him to dozens waiting for him inside Rosewood Retirement Home in Killeen.
“He’s had a nice, long nap, so he’s ready to put up with all of you,” Ronald Wilson said.
In 100 years of life and counting, the World War II veteran has put up with a lot. Cracking smiles for his centennial celebration wasn’t an issue.
Many family members and friends congregated inside an event room at Rosewood for Honey's birthday party, where favors that appeal to all ages were enjoyed: cake and coffee. Ronald Wilson, 74, stood near a letter signed by Gov. Greg Abbott congratulating Honey when he was told he looks more like his father the older he gets.
“Honey is the name I gave him as a kid, and it stuck,” Ronald Wilson said. Honey was also the nickname the elder Wilson had the Army, he added.
Ronald Wilson recalled once replacing his father’s old gloves with brand new gloves.
“‘Ron, have you seen my gloves?’ I said, ‘Yes, but have you seen the new pair of gloves I got you?’” Ronald Wilson said, recalling the memory. “He said, ‘I don’t want new gloves. I want my gloves.’”
Honey Wilson was born Aug. 27, 1918, in Arkansas, three months before the end of World War I. He grew up on a farm as the first-born son in a family of nine children, and saw the invention of television, antibiotics and the cheeseburger.
In 1939, he enlisted in the Army, became a medic and a sergeant, and shipped out with the 103rd Infantry Division to southern France in 1944. Honey deployed again in 1951 for the Korean War.
The veteran arrived at Fort Hood in 1959, and retired in 1960 with 21 years of service. He and his wife, Phadra, who lived to be 89, were married for more than 70 years, having three sons, four grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
Eight-year-old Emily Burkey, one of those great-great-grandchildren, rushed to embrace her great-great-grandfather upon his arrival at Saturday's birthday party.
“I enjoy life,” Honey said. “It pays to be careful.”