GREENFIELD — Birthdays are a big deal at Golden Living Center in Greenfield. Each time a resident chalks up another year, it’s a celebration — complete with cake, ice cream and excited exchanges.
But the celebration was a little more special when Hans Schultz turned 107 Friday. Staffers from the nursing home and nearby Hancock Regional Hospital brought their families, pets and friends, and Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell stopped by to shake hands with Schultz.
Schultz is the oldest resident at Golden Living Center and the second-oldest person ever to live at the facility, director Jinx Oberly said.
It hasn’t been the easiest life at times, but after living more than a century, Schultz seemed like a happy man during that celebration, smiling as he shook hands with other residents and chatting with hospital staff.
Tom Schultz was not surprised to see his father reach this age. Longevity runs in their family, he said.
“Well, he had a sister that died pretty young — she was 99,” he joked.
The secret is a great set of genes, a healthy lifestyle and a happy outlook, they said.
That happy outlook hasn’t always been easy for Hans Schultz, but he found his way through, his son said.
Both of Hans Schultz’s parents had died by the time he was 7, and he lived in an Indianapolis orphanage for most of his youth. There, he learned to care for animals and carried those skills with him into adulthood.
While in his 30s in the late 1930s, Schultz was working for a farmer whose sheep were attacked by a dog and nearly killed. Schultz nursed the sheep back to health and sold them. He used the money to buy property in New Palestine, which he still owns.
He lived on the land until last month and took up residence at Golden Living only about two weeks ago. The nursing staff there has quickly grown attached to him, said Nancy Durham, a department head at Golden Living.
“It’s a joy to have him here,” Durham said.
Hans Schultz always has a big, engaging grin, and he signs his paperwork with some of the most beautiful penmanship she has seen, Durham said.
Hans Schultz worked as an engineer for most of his life and was an avid fisherman in his free time, Tom Schultz said. He said he remembers his father catching a foot-long bass as recently as five years ago, at 102.
In his long life, Hans Schultz was married twice: first to Helen Maxine Schultz and then to Anastasia Schultz. He has five sons: Bob Coffin, Charlie Schultz, Wally Schultz, Tom Schultz and Jim Schultz.
This week, Fewell is expected to issue a city proclamation to honor Hans Schultz’s birthday. In his time as mayor, Fewell said, he has been to the birthday celebrations of at least five Greenfield residents who have reached the 100-year milestone.
“Can you image what he’s viewed in his lifetime?” Fewell said of Hans Schultz. “From horseless carriages to modern-day automobiles — it’s amazing.”