A Cedar Park resident of seven years celebrated his 100th birthday last Wednesday with a small crowd of around 30 family members – many of them spanning generations on the family tree.
George Atkinson, a veteran of World War II, held his party in a small event room at the New Hope Manor in Cedar Park.
The celebration began at 1:30 p.m. with Atkinson sitting in his wheelchair being greeted by family. Vintage photographs showcasing his life were strewn around the perimeter of the room, with one montage of pictures in a far corner of the room containing a banner that read "100 Years Loved."
Nearby the pictures were cupcakes and a cake, both covered in frosting of red, white and blue.
It was a private celebration, only open to family members according to sign taped on the doors to the event room. Still, the dozens of family members were easily able to crowd the celebration area.
They spoke fondly of the storied life that Atkinson has lived so far: telling of his time at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was accepted at 16 years old for a degree in pharmacy, his service in the United States Army Air Corps, and his experience working in oil fields and bagging groceries.
"He was a real hard worker and I learned from him that hard work pays off," said Karen Daniel, Atkinson's niece. "He is a very devout christian and he loved my mother," Daniel said.
Atkinson was born on July 3, 1919, and lived nearby oil fields. He lived through the the Great Depression, which hit his family hard. Atkinson said he had to live in a tent at some point during his early years.
When he was 16, Atkinson was accepted into UT and planned to become a pharmacist by pursuing a degree in pharmacy. He was described by family as being particularly smart and an avid reader.
"He had books stacked up to the roof!" said Jerry Conway, an uncle of the family, referring to Atkinson's later years living in Kansas.
Yet, after the surprise attack by Japanese forces in December 1941 on the naval base at Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Hawaii, he felt compelled to join the army promptly and leave his studies at UT.
"Pearl Harbor was his motivation to join," Daniel said, "[he wanted] to protect his country."
After World War II, Atkinson traveled frequently with his job working for a company where he retrieved items from deep oil holes.
He also bagged groceries for 15 years, which he did "because he was bored and wanted to talk to people," said Daniel.
In his later life he kept up his reading habits and learned to use new technologies: he often used his iPad and computer to keep up with his interests and learned to use Photoshop.
He also taught Sunday School at his church, a part of a longstanding devotion to Christianity. Due to that belief, and despite the family trait of short tempers, his family said that Atkinson rarely gossiped, cursed or spoke ill of anyone.
"He taught me be to be a good Christian and he has led by example," Daniel said.