Bill Schlee must be doing something right.
He is healthy, happy, drives a convertible sports car, and at his birthday party this week, he had women clinging to him, and lining up to give him kisses. And it wasn’t just any birthday — on Wednesday, William G. Schlee turned 100 years old.
He actually had a string of parties thrown in his honor. Monday, he celebrated with staff, members and friends from the Naples Bay Resort, where Schlee, who lives around the corner in Royal Harbor, goes to exercise. Tuesday, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, where he is an active volunteer, sponsored a birthday party as well. By Wednesday, Jan. 25, Schlee was probably ready to take it easy.
Or maybe not — staying active is key to staying young, the very-young-for-100 centenarian said.
“You’ve got to keep moving,” said Schlee. “I’ve been working out three times a week for 30 years.”
“He could show me a thing or two,” said Annie Hunt, fitness director at the club. “He’s amazing. It’s just pure, raw Bill — it doesn’t get much better.”
Schlee’s routine, he said, is a combination of cardio and strength training.
“I do some weight lifting, and I work on six or seven of those machines,” he said. “This is a great group. It’s thanks to this club I stay looking young.
“I don’t wear glasses, and I don’t wear hearing aids,” said Schlee. “I hear what I want to hear” — and presumably does not hear what he doesn’t want, which may be another trick for growing old while staying young. He stands erect, and moves easily.
When Naples Bay Resort club concierge Bobbi German, who organized the party, went to get him for a group photo, Schlee was bending over, helping out by cleaning up some cake crumbs that had spilled on the floor.
“Look at him. He’s a party animal,” she said.
“I can’t say it was in my genes,” Schlee said of his longevity. “My father died at 68, my mother was 76 or 77.”
Born in 1912 in Cleveland, Schlee, an only child, served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in World War II, seeing action in France and Belgium, including the Battle of the Bulge. He won the French Foreign Legion Medal of Honor for participating in the liberation of France. In civilian life, he worked for many years for the U.S. Treasury Dept.
When he is not working out, Schlee volunteers with St. Vincent de Paul, collecting baked goods for the Meals on Wheels program, and has also worked with Collier Harvest.
“If you saw him working out at your gym, you would never guess his age,” said Joy Bottger, associate executive director for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, marveling that he continues to give back to the community at his age.
“I am charity-oriented. I feel like I should do some good for someone who doesn’t have as much as I do,” Schlee said. His life’s many blessings, he said, include two children, two grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
It’s important to enjoy life, said Schlee, who enjoyed a belly laugh when his friend Kaye Gardner presented him with a risqué birthday card. He also enjoys a daily martini, he said, but not before getting behind the wheel. He says he has no problem driving, and his Pontiac Solstice has vanity license plates “WGS 3.”
Naples Bay Resort general manager Phillip Starling presented Schlee with a proclamation from Naples Mayor Bill Barnett, proclaiming January 25 as Bill Schlee Day, in honor of his 100th birthday.
“He doesn’t look a day over 80,” cracked party guest Frank Montemurro, who is 80 himself, a relative stripling. Eighty is also reputedly the age of Schlee’s “lady friend” Dorothy, although Schlee diplomatically declined to verify the report.
“You like younger women, don’t you?” said Bobbi German.
“Doll, there aren’t any my age,” shot back Schlee.