A special centennial birthday
Bennington native reflects on clock collecting, poetry and his life as a pilot
BENNINGTON — "It's all good. It is what it is."
These are the words of 100-year-young Bennington native Bob Sausville.
When asked how he made it this far, he replied, "I just didn't give a damn. I go with the flow," sitting on the front porch of Brookdale at Fillmore Pond with a tobacco pipe in his hand and a glowing grin.
Bob Sausville celebrates his birthday today and has accomplished much in his time on this earth, including flying all over it many a time, but Vermont is the only place he calls home.
"I like Vermont because it has mountains. The worst thing in the world, to me, is a big ol' mountain with no trees on it," Sausville said. "We lived all over, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Montana."
He's been a Brookdale resident for about five years and moved in with his wife, Geraldine, who passed four years ago. They were neighborhood sweet-hearts on Dewey Street, where they later bought a home to fix-up together - it was also the same street where Sausville was born inside his family home in 1919. Sausville and his wife, married 72 years, went on to have three children and he now has seven grandchildren and great-grandchild.
Pilot with a passion
On Friday Sausville took flight again for the first time since 1969, this time as a passenger. His friend Mark arranged it for him. When asked how he felt about it he said: "We'll see what happens."
While reflecting on his time as a pilot for the Army Air Corps during the 1940s, Sausville mentioned a time he broke a safety rule that almost ended his career. Instead of flying with a trainer like he was used to, Sausville was surprised to be told to take a solo trip.
"What I wanted to do with that airplane was do loops and spins and all kinds of stuff," he said. "Well, we're supposed to wear a safety belt. If you do a snap roll you stay right in your seat. Well, then I decided to do a slow roll.."
Before he knew it Sausville is upside down with his bottom out of the seat and his hands handing onto the stick of the yoke until he could roll it over to get it right-side-up.
"You gotta believe in your instruments."
"I had a parachute, but ya know, you can't take the man's airplane out and come back without it," he said about his trainer's plane. "I don't even get in a car without putting a safety belt on now."
Sausville became intrigued with flying as a kid, the same goes for his love of clocks. He liked the mechanics of things and he remembers watching planes fly over town to let the village know someone was at the airport.
"I couldn't believe how big [the plane] was up close," he said.
He enlisted in the Army Air Corps after high school and attended army aircraft school to become a mechanic. Later a lieutenant recruited Sausville because there was a shortage of pilots and he needed a mechanic. This led him to pilot training in 1942.
He flew a B-24 Liberator bomber and participated in 58 combat missions over the southern Pacific Ocean against Japanese forces. Later he returned to Bennington and offered pilot instruction classes at the airport from 1945 to 1950 until he was recalled to active duty for overseas deployment during the Korean War. A year later he became full-time and found himself at the pentagon for research and development to test new aircraft and weapons systems for the air force. Sausville retired in 1969 and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross during World War II, as well as an Airman's Medal, an Air Force Commendation Medial and more than a dozen campaign ribbons.
"There's just nothing like it," said Sausville on what it feels like to fly a plane. "It's good for a country boy."
Clock and poems
When Sausville and his wife settled back into Bennington, he started an antique clock retail and repair shop. He said he collected throughout his travels in the service. When he was a kid, his mother gave him a clock from an auction and he took it apart. He loved the woodwork and mechanics of them.
"The first time I took a clock apart I didn't know what the hell the do with it," he said. "I stayed with it. There's even a clock association, the NAWCC - National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors. I was able to buy American clocks in Japan, in Europe and France and we collected them."
Another hobby Sausville picked up as a child is writing and reading poetry. He remembers writing in high school during class and not paying attention to the lectures.
"I would have been thrown out if it wasn't for my sister," he recalled.
He writes poems about the staff and other residents at Brookdale if they're leaving or having a birthday and he's not shy of humor and rhyme. His children and wife even collected some of his work and published it in a book called "Humorous Verse."
When asked if he has any wisdom for readers, he replied, "I've got a wisdom tooth!"
On July 22 the town of Bennington issued Sausville a proclamation for his time in the service and for being a productive citizen of the town. The Air Force veteran celebrates his 100th birthday today at Brookdale with his friends and family - a senior who reminds us not to take life too seriously.
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