Phil Szemela, a resident at The Fountains at Boca Ciega Bay, was initiated into the unofficial Pinellas County Centenarian club on August 7.
Phil says he isn’t quite sure when his birthday is – that’s the date his mom told him. He celebrated the day with a special visit from his family and the local fire department.
Before retiring after 30 years with the Springfield Fire Department in Springfield, Massachusetts Szemela and his wife, Stella lived full lives. In 2016, the Szemela’s moved to The Fountains to be closer to their daughter, Betty, and granddaughters Mara and Jennifer.
The duo currently spend their days enjoying each other’s company and participating in tough Wii Bowling championships at The Fountains.
Phil was born in 1920, the youngest of six, and grew up during the Great Depression. In 1940, Phil began working for Pratt & Whitney on airplane engines for the war. In 1942, he joined the Navy and served for three years. From 1942 to 1945 Phil was stationed in Hawaii at Kane’ohe Bay as an airplane tech in Fleet Air Wing No. 2. His service, training and schooling sent him across the country to places such as California, Chicago, Washington and Florida.
Upon his return in 1944, Phil married his wife Stella, and they welcomed their daughter in 1949. Phil then went on to accomplish his life-long dream of becoming a firefighter.
As Phil and Stella worked hard to raise their daughter and make a good life for themselves, they remembered cherishing any Sunday they could spend together. The two reminisce about Phil making his specialty “super thin” pancakes on these Sundays, as well as memories of long drives where they would “get lost” for a while – but always found their way home.
When asked the secret to a long and happy life, Phil said, “Faith during hard times, investing in yourself and your future, and a sense of community.”