COPPERAS COVE — He sometimes uses a wheelchair to get around a little easier, his memory isn’t quite what it used to be, and age-related health issues crop up from time to time, but Scooter Barclay is still very much alive and well — and he hopes to stay that way for a good while longer.
“I want to make it to a hundred,” says the 94-year-old former U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) member and World War II veteran.
After 30 years of distinguished service in the military, followed by a long career in Central Texas real estate, Barclay now calls Copperas Cove home. He and his dog, Doc, a now-blind senior citizen dachshund and Chihuahua mix, share an apartment in a local retirement community.
He mostly comes and goes as he pleases, still owns a car and drives himself pretty much wherever he needs to go, and tries to stay busy. One nagging problem with getting older, Barclay says, is what he jokingly refers to as “part-timer’s” syndrome.
“I can recall things that happened to me 60 or 70 years ago — sometimes — better than I can recall what happened to me today or yesterday, or whatever. Sometimes you can ask me what I ate for lunch … hell, I don’t know,” he said, laughing.
“My theory is that your mind can only accommodate a certain amount of memory. So what it does is, it starts shoving out the later stuff – the short-term memory – because there’s just not enough room for everything. I don’t know if that’s true, but it works for me.”
Barclay was born and raised in the state of Washington, and graduated with a degree in political science and economics from Washington State University. He volunteered to be drafted during World War II when he was 18, fought in the south Pacific, got out of the military for a while, finished college, went back in the Army, and eventually retired as a lieutenant colonel.
He was stationed at Camp Hood (now Fort Hood) in 1949, and met a local girl on a blind date. That girl would later become his wife, but things did not get off to a flying start that first night.
“At that time in Texas, liquor laws were by city and by county,” Barclay says. “Killeen and Fort Hood were completely dry. They didn’t have a liquor store at Fort Hood, (and) 3.2 (percent alcohol content) beer was all you could get at Fort Hood. If you went to Temple, you could drink beer and what-not.
“There was this place across from the (military) hospital in Temple called the Idle Hour. So we went to this place, and, apparently, I drank too much. Well, I’d been brought up to be a gentleman, so I took my (future) wife home, walked her to the door; she got inside, shut the screen door, and said, ‘Good night. I don’t ever want to see you again.’
“I thought, ‘Man, I’m a better guy than that.’ So I called her and prevailed on her for another chance. I said I was sorry; I got out of bounds; I’m a better guy than that; let’s try it again – you know.
“So we went out again, and we saw each other for about a year. I’d always wanted to go airborne in World War II, and so when I finally got orders to go airborne, I asked her to marry me before I left. I went off to six or eight weeks of jump school, then on to Fort Campbell. Every Friday, I’d go to bingo, and I’d call her after bingo, and ask her to marry me.
“She finally surprised me and said, yes, so we got married in 1951.”
They were married 60 years and raised two children, a son and a daughter. Six years, ago, Jacqueline died from pancreatic cancer, and after five years or so of kicking around by himself in their house in Killeen, Barclay, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of five more, decided to find himself a more comfortable place to live.
“Part of the problem is that your family has got to move on,” he says. “People are so busy these days.
“Normally, women live longer than men, and (his wife’s death) was a very big surprise to me. That’s my wife when she was young – probably 23 or 24,” he said, pulling a pair of small photographs from his wallet. “I thought she was beautiful. Now, this is my wife when she was probably 75 years old. She’s still beautiful, but in a different way.
“One of the things I’ve noted is that it is kind of common that when one person dies, the other one often dies within a year. The reason is, they give up. They just don’t do anything. I made up my mind, when my wife died, (that) by God, I wasn’t going to die. So I’ve been busy.
“I’ve been a Realtor — I wasn’t very good because I talk too much, and sometimes I’d talk people out of buying — and in 2014 or 2015, somewhere around there, I went to a national (Realtor) convention in New Orleans. One day, the president of the Texas state association got up and started talking to a room of a thousand, fifteen-hundred people, and he says, ‘Oh, yeah – Scooter Barclay, stand up.’ I stood up, and he said, ‘We have done a study, and we have found that Scooter Barclay is the oldest president of a real estate association in the United States, this year.’
“Everybody is cheering and clapping, and he goes on: ‘Furthermore, we believe that he’s the oldest president of a real estate association ever in the United States.’ Now, our association (Fort Hood Area Association of Realtors) is not gigantic, like San Antonio or Houston … but we have a 700-member association that covers Copperas Cove, Temple, Killeen, Belton.
“My point is … you’ve got to keep doing things.
“I got a little despondent recently. The oldest male member in my family — that I know of — lived to be 68. So why am I 94? It has something to do with genes, I guess, but you’ve got to stay active. I’ve been blessed. The Lord has taken care of me. I still have a lot of independence, and I’ve had a helluva good life.
“Now, if I can just make it to 100.”