Anyone who lives to 100 years old will be asked their secret to reaching the century mark. For World War II veteran Don Johnson, eating right, exercising and being happy are his keys to long, healthy living.

The man born in the President Woodrow Wilson administration turned 100 Tuesday, but celebrated with a surprise party Monday at the Gritman Medical Center Cardiac Rehabilitation clinic in the Medical Office Building in downtown Moscow. Johnson visits the clinic for exercise and checkups.

Johnson, who lives outside Princeton, can still do pushups, drive and even roller skated into his 80s. He is also one of the most content people you will meet.

“In my lifetime, he’s the happiest man I’ve ever known,” said 79-year-old Dana Idol, a relative of Johnson.

Johnson said honesty has a lot to do with his happiness.

“He always has something nice to say about everyone,” Idol said.

Johnson’s daughter, Donna Idol, said her father told her he has lived so long because he does not hold grudges.

Johnson said he had never thought about why he has lived such a long life until the last couple months.

“I didn’t think you could live that long,” he said. “I’ve heard of people living to be 100, but I never thought I would be 100. Now I want to live to be 125.”

He said he feels good and has no serious health issues.

“I’ve had a good life,” Johnson said. “I’ve been very fortunate.”

Johnson was born in Providence, R.I., and grew up in Manchester, N.H. He served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, now called the Air Force, from 1942 to 1945. His three brothers also served during World War II, and all of them survived the war.

He serviced airplanes and was stationed in North Africa and Europe. Johnson said he never really experienced combat.

“I loved the service,” said Johnson, a corporal. “I really did, and I loved everybody around me. I had some beautiful friends.”

Shortly after the war ended, he married Betty, and the two spent the next 64 years together until she died in 2010.

Johnson said he and his wife got along with each other well, including on the dance floor.

Johnson loves Western music and clothing — he wore a cowboy hat for his birthday party — and said he and Betty danced every night of the week for about six straight years at a Las Vegas hotel.

“We loved dancing, especially the two step, but then we had other dances,” Johnson said.

Johnson worked several jobs after the war, including as a mechanic, in a shoe shop, as a service manager for a Cadillac dealership, and he and his wife managed a motel in Las Vegas.

The couple spent most of their time in Marion, Ohio, and Las Vegas.

Johnson has spent the last six years outside Princeton living with his daughter and son-in-law, but he said Florida or a similar warm southeastern climate is in his future.

“He’s happy to be happy and that’s what keeps him going,” said Tom Idol, his son-in-law. “We love him living with us, and he brings joy to us.”

Tom Idol said Johnson has been active all his life and continues to stay busy, whether that means making his bed, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor.

He said Johnson cares about others too.

“If I had $1 million, I’d give it all away,” Johnson said. “I’d just keep enough to live on.”

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to

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