NORTH BALTIMORE -- He was born in Tiro, Ohio -- before there was electricity. Today, he gets an occasional autograph request or a visit from someone wanting to know more about his life.
Russell Coffey is a man whose life has touched three centuries, reports News 11's Dick Berry.
Coffey is 109 years old and the oldest surviving American World War I veteran. He now calls the Health Center of Briar Hills in North Baltimore his home.
"He's doing well," says Key Pickett, one of Coffey's nurses. "Kind of slow. He sleeps between meals. He does pretty good."
On Monday, Russell was surrounded by relatives who have made a 4,200-mile journey from Alaska for Veterans Day. They say he's a living, breathing history book.
"I believe it was his grandfather who fought in the Civil War with Sherman through Atlanta. So he heard that story firsthand through his grandfather," says Sandy Hoover, one of Coffey's relatives.
"He tells the story of driving his car on the newly made roads that went to Iowa to pursue a job there. That was when Iowa was a territory and not a state," says Joe Hoover.
Coffey has received every Veterans award possible. He enlisted in the army while a student at The Ohio State University in October of 1918. It was a month before the Allied Powers and Germany signed a cease fire agreement.
Coffey never saw battle, instead staying Stateside to play briefly for the Army baseball team.
"He was happy to serve but felt there were so many people that had already been shipped over such as his brothers doing the real work of the war that he never got to contribute," says Jeff Coffey.
For years, Coffey taught physical education at Bowling Green State University. Members of his immediate family are dead but Coffey survives -- one of three American soldiers reported alive from the War to End All Wars.
On the Web: www.crawfordcountyveteranshof.com
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