Myron Cropsey laughed when a friend asked him how it felt to be the center of attention.
"It has its advantages," he said.
For Cropsey, who celebrated his 100th birthday Sunday at First Congregational United Church of Christ, the advantages included more than just cake and cards: The World War II veteran took the opportunity to urge his friends to work for peace.
Cropsey technically doesn't turn 100 until Friday, but the church he attended until a move to Portland a few years ago gave him a party after Sunday worship service.
During a break in the stream of well-wishers Sunday, Cropsey stood to address the audience.
"I would like to say how many things I have seen change in my life," he said. He went on to talk about his first Model T ("a modern car is so much better") and the radio he and his father made from "Popular Mechanics" instructions.
Things have gotten better in the world, he said, but can still improve.
"I see we've made a lot of progress... but we've still got a lot more to learn," he said.
Cropsey moved to Corvallis in 1946, where he spent most of the next 60 years - except three months he spent in Scotland, he noted.
He is well-known in Benton County for his work with swimming programs, Boy Scouts and education. In 1983, he was named Corvallis Senior First Citizen.
"He's a character," said Dale Kirk, 91, who taught with Cropsey at Oregon State University for many years.
A few years ago, Cropsey moved in with his daughter, Heidi Cropsey-Boulware, and her husband in Portland.
The church invited Cropsey down this weekend for his birthday.
"It was nice of them to do that," said Cropsey's son, George Cropsey, of the church party. "And of course, this happens once a century."
Cropsey rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel during World War II and never lost his military discipline, Cropsey-Boulware said. He adheres to a daily routine that includes waking up at the same time and reading the newspaper. He works in the garden every day and is helping his daughter re-landscape her yard.
"Everything he does, he does well," Cropsey-Boulware said. "Now, he's doing being 100 years old really well."
Cropsey has been involved with Boy Scouts since he was a child and served as a scoutmaster in Oakland, Calif., and with Corvallis' Troop 1.
Frank Hall, outgoing scoutmaster of Troop 1, which is sponsored by First Congregational, said Cropsey has been an inspirational scouting figure.
Hall likes to tell scouts about how when Cropsey first joined the organization, it was the first time he'd been able to socially interact with a Jewish person.
Varying religious backgrounds is the norm in Troop 1 these days, Hall said.
Inclusiveness is "a principal that has inspired him his entire life," Hall said.
Peace has obviously motivated Cropsey as well.
Sunday, he told of a December ambush by the Germans during the war, which prompted a battle that ended when the Germans literally ran out of gas.
"I'm glad that's over," he said. "We've got lots of other things to do. We should work for peace as much as we can."
Reporter Rachel Beck can
be reached at 541-758-9548.