The Cubs, Clementines and Hot Chocolate: WW II Vet and Centenarian’s favorite things

Above, WW II Vet Samuel Roland celebrating his 100th Birthday at the Cubs game with daughter Karen Backe. – Roland family photo


by Tina Johansson

Samuel Roland of Sylvan Lake may have just turned a century old (June 3), but he is “sharp as a tack,” say those who know him.

“His mind is 100 percent. He remembers things down to the details, dating back when he was a little kid attending a one room schoolhouse,” said his only daughter Karen Backe.

According to Backe, her father is a big believer in the four C’s.  Not the ones promoted by the National Education Association, but the ones that keep him healthy – in his words – and definitely happy.

Samual Roland while he served in the Navy in 19 early 1940s.
Roland while he served in the U.S. Navy in the early 1940s. – Roland family collection

“He likes hot chocolate — he drinks it all day long,” said Backe who lives with him. “And he really enjoys eating clementines. I always leave a few on his dresser for a snack at night. He loves the (Chicago) Cubs. He’s been a big fan forever and doesn’t miss watching a game.”

And one thing he may not love so much, but which he takes daily, is vitamin C (as well a multi-vitamin), she said.

“He never smoked or drank,” added his daughter.

These things may add to the secrets of his longevity, but the centenarian also claims his close-knit family helps. He and his late wife Dorothy (nee Rowles), who he was married to for 52 years, have seven children, 15 grandchildren and a dozen great-grandchildren.

Mr. Roland who was born and raised in Pennsylvania,

Roland was a captain in the United States Navy before retiring after serving 23 years.
Roland was a Navy officer before retiring after serving 23 years. – Roland family collection

graduated from Thompson College in York, Penn. in 1940. Two years later he joined the Navy and served aboard the USS Forrest destroyer for 3 ½ years during WW II. In May 1945, the USS Forrest was hit by a Japanese kamikaze plane in Okinawa. Five people were killed, and 13 injured. Luckily Roland escaped harm.

He became a Navy officer and relocated to the former Naval Air Station Glenview. After 23 years in the Navy, Roland retired and landed a job at the Glenview Post Office where he worked up until 20 years ago.

At his home in Sylvan Lake, an unincorporated area of Lake County between Hawthorne Woods and Mundelein, Roland was peaceful compared to life on the Navy destroyer.

“My dad just loved working out on the garage building bird houses and dog houses,” said Backe, who moved in with him about 14 years ago after he began suffering circulation problems with one of his legs. While he can walk short distances with the help of a walker, for the most part Mr. Roland is in his wheelchair.

To celebrate her grandfather’s 100th birthday, his granddaughter Melissa Roland VanDusen of Pell Lake,Wisc., posted a touching tribute to him on Facebook along with photos of his days in the Navy.

Subsequently, Mr. Roland received thousands of birthday cards and a pair of tickets to the June 2 Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers game. The Cubs won the game, 7 – 2. The birthday boy was in his glory.

Roland at home with Smokey, his daughter's dog, whom is nearly as old in dog years to Roland.
Roland at home with Smokey, his daughter’s dog, whom is nearly as old in dog years as Roland.

“Oh my gosh, he was so excited! He was really given the royal treatment at Wrigley,” said Backe.

The following day, people attended a birthday party at Roland’s home. About 60 family and friends came throughout the country, including grandson Tim Roland, son of Lake County Board member Diane Hewitt (Dist. 2). Tim flew here with his younger daughter Sydney from their home in Colorado where he works in construction.

“I wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said the grandson. “I think that anytime someone reaches 100, it’s a real accomplishment.”

Having been born in 1916, during World War I, Roland has lived through a great deal.

The most memorable he said, was getting married.

“We (Dorothy and I) went and got married after three dates,” he said. “I asked her if she was traveling with me, and she said ‘Yes.’

Then I went back to work at the Philadelphia Navy yard. She sent me a letter saying, ‘I’m coming.’ I met her at the train station and we left that night for Winchester, VA, and got married that evening. She traveled with me for 52 years. That was more memorable than anything else in my life.”

Hewitt brought a resolution to the Lake County Board honoring her former father-in-law. Fremont Township Supervisor Diana O’Kelly also made a resolution commemorating Roland’s birthday, as he resides in her township.

It’s not too late to send Samuel a Happy Birthday card. Please send cards to:
Melissa VanDusen
C/O Samuel Roland
P.O. Box 885
Pell Lake, WI 53157

Samuel Roland, WW II vet, celebrating his 100th birthday. - Tim Roland photo
Samuel Roland, WW II vet, celebrating his 100th birthday at home. – Tim Roland photo


3 thoughts on “The Cubs, Clementines and Hot Chocolate: WW II Vet and Centenarian’s favorite things

  • June 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm

    In case anyone wants to help send my Grandpa a card, it’s not too late!

    Melissa VanDusen
    C/O Samuel Roland
    P.O. Box 885
    Pell Lake, WI 53157

    Thank you!!

    • June 7, 2016 at 9:50 pm

      Great idea Melissa! Please send a card to 100-year-old WW II Vet Samuel Roland.

      • June 7, 2016 at 10:15 pm

        Great article, Tina! I really enjoyed it.

        And special thanks for adding the post office card address! We hope to fill his home with love from around the world.

        Thank you again!


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