GALION — When you walk into the Galion home of Russell and Mary Badgley, you can feel the presence of faith and family like a warm blanket around your shoulders on a chilly winter day.
Russell celebrated his 100th birthday on Nov. 25. A truly remarkable occasion, to be sure, but for the humble husband, father, grandfather, and veteran, it was just another Wednesday.
“I don’t see any change, really,” he said with a smile. “Of course, the old body has some aches and pains. That’s about it.”
When asked what the secret to his longevity is, Russell grinned and pointed to Mary, his wife of 71 years.
“Well, she’s still my sweetheart,” Russell said with a broad grin.
“Too late to make up now,” Mary quipped.
During the course of his life, Russell has experienced a vast amount of history, advances in technology, and other milestones.
“The other day I was looking at automobiles and how they’ve changed,” he said. “My first automobile was a 1916 Chevrolet. I’d just got out of high school — it was 1939 — and I had to have a car. I just fell in love with it. I think it lasted a couple of months and then it broke down, and that was the end of my car.”
Born in 1920, late in the second term of President Woodrow Wilson, Russell has lived to see a total of 18 other men elected to the presidency. As a veteran of the United States Navy, he survived World War II.
Also during his century on earth, he lived through the Great Depression, he’s been witness to the Cold War, the advent of the computer age, a man walking on the moon, the fall of the Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall, the 9/11 attacks, the first African American elected president, and a whole host of other historical events.
One of the pieces of modern technology that Russell said he is most intrigued with is the cellphone.
“You can do anything with that doggone thing,” he said with a gleam in his eye. “I used to work for the telephone company. I worked for North Electric for 43 years, I think it was. We sure didn’t have anything like that back then.”
Art has been Russell’s favorite pastime throughout his lifetime. He used his talent in art to further his career at North Electric as a draftsman. One of his prized collectibles is a schematic for a telephone that he drew for the company.
“That was my favorite subject when I was in school,” he said. “I do some scribbling. I do a lot of Mickey Mouse (drawings). … I draw for the grandkids. They enjoy it. It’s a lot of fun.”
Color drawings of Mickey Mouse and Pluto and Snoopy and Woodstock adorn the walls of his basement. He also drew murals on the walls of their church.
“He has the talent, but he doesn’t use it,” Mary said. “He used to do the illustrations for our church paper. Whenever a holiday or something would come up, we’d give him some ideas and he’d draw these characters or whatever for the church paper, which added a great deal to the publication. He did it more for enjoyment than for anything else.”
Above and beyond all else, Russell’s family is that which is most important to him. He and Mary have two children — daughter, Beth Carpenter who lives in Galion, and son, Douglas, who is deceased — two grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Mary said she and Russell both hold their wedding vows as sacred promises, citing that as the key to their long marriage and romance.
“We had premarital counseling and the minister stressed the importance of the vow,” Mary said. “It’s not a maybe, could be, whatever; it’s a vow. We’ve had our ups and downs like any other couple, you know, and we could’ve walked out at any time, but that stuck in your mind — I took a vow.”
That commitment to family is at the core of their value system, said Russell, who described himself as a “straight and narrow guy.”