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      Heartland man still happy and healthy at 101

      Birthday Boy Paul Thomas with his family.

      Paul Thomas was surrounded by family as he celebrated his 101st Birthday at the Good Samaritan Society in Keosauqua Tuesday.

      Thomas was born in Missouri in 1912, but was raised and lived in Van Buren County his whole life.

      He was a man who lived for farming, gardening and riding tractors until the age of 90. He said he misses it every day.

      "Being around a bunch of cattle, hogs and sheep, milk some cows, everything just like any farmer does," Thomas said.

      The one thing Thomas never lost sight of was his family. Thomas was married for 75 years to his wife, Ilah, before she passed away three years ago. The couple never had children, but Thomas played the role of second father and grandfather to the 16 nieces and nephews, 22 great nieces and nephews and 16 great-great nieces and nephews he has.

      "I'm glad he is. We don't want to let him go. We are going to hold on to him for another 100 hopefully," said niece Heather Sheets.

      "I remember the one piece of advice he gave me, he said 'It's not what you do. It's what you have left when you're done that counts,'" said nephew Paul Wells.

      Thomas says he has lived a great long life and shared his secret behind it.

      "It's been hard work and love. I'm very happy. I'm very happy with every one of them. This bunch has been good to me," Thomas said.

      Thomas was the sixth of seven children.

      Thoughout these past 10 decades he has lived through historic events such as World Wars I & II, the Roaring 20's, the Great Depression, civil rights, the disco era, Y2K, and 17 presidents.