JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Veterans Day means a great deal to longtime Johnson City resident Merv Pratt. He served in the United States Navy for four years during World War II, spending time on battleships and heavy cruisers from Normandy to the South Pacific Ocean.
“We in America had a free country and I think it was our responsibility and our duty to support it whenever it was needed,” he said.
This Veterans Day was particularly meaningful for Pratt, however, as dozens of his friends and family members gathered to celebrate a different occasion, as well.
“It turned out to be a rather special day and I wasn’t expecting this much going on,” he said.
Today, on Veterans Day, Merv Pratt celebrated his 100th birthday.
“I really appreciate all everybody that’s been here and what they’ve done to help make it a little more enjoyable,” he said.
“It’s really a lifetime event and we put the sign up out here yesterday – Merv’s 100th birthday – and when I saw that it really just hit me,” his daughter said. “He’s 100 – because he doesn’t seem like it.”
Dwyer noted that her father is in excellent physical health, but has not been able to hear well for some time.
“It frustrates him because he hates to say ‘what’,” she said. “It bothers him that he can’t hear.”
That’s when Julia Looney of Nu Hearing Centers had an idea for his birthday present – new, top-of-the-line Widex hearing aids.
“He’s only had them one day – it’s a birthday present, he couldn’t get them too early,” she said with a smile. “We fit him yesterday.”
“This was a real surprise,” Pratt said. “I really appreciated this to get a new set of ears. I can hear now.”
It is a gift that has already been greatly appreciated by Pratt, but it has competition as far calling it the best present he’s ever received.
“I think I was 12 years old and I lived in the Sioux territory for some time and I asked my dad if I could get one of those ponies,” he recalled. “I never thought he would do it, but he did and they brought the pony. I thought that was a pretty exciting time as a kid.”
Still, Dwyer emphasized just how important the gift will be for her father every day.
“That’s a big part of our lives to communicate and be active with other people to be able to hear,” she said. “So, it’s really wonderful that she did that.”
Pratt has been a patient of Looney’s for the last 14 years and the bond they share is undeniably unique.
“Well you spend a few minutes with him and he’s an amazing man,” Looney said. “He always has the best outlook on life. He comes into my office and just has a smile and everyone is always delighted to see him.”
“He’s an amazing man to celebrate, as you can see from the crowd here, and you spend time with him – he’s an amazing man.”