BC's Stout celebrates 100th birthday
Last updated 11/2/2021 at 9:21pm
What's the secret to living to be 100 years old?
Bridge City's Cedric Stout, who turns 100 on Sunday, Nov. 7, is like a cat with many lives.
"I've done died so many times," he said the other day. "I died from sea sickness so many times in the Navy. Sometimes I'd go without food for a week, I was so sick.
"And it didn't matter if I was up on deck, or below deck, I'd get sick. If you've never been seasick, it's one of the worst kinds of sick there is."
Of course, when it comes to near death experiences, Stout is better known by most of his neighbors for surviving the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941 that sunk his ship, the USS Utah, in 10 minutes and left 57 of its 471 crew members dead.
That surprise sunrise attack on the huge Naval Base in Hawaii launched the United States into World War II.
Ironic, though, that a man who spent most of his six years in the Navy bouncing up and down on the waves of the Pacific Ocean was seasick a good deal of the time.
Stout was one of the lucky crewmen who dodged Japanese machine gun fire to run across deck and slide down the Utah's mooring lines to take cover just minutes before the Utah, hit by multiple torpedo bombers, rolled over and sank.
After Dec. 7, the engine room mechanic was assigned to a succession of destroyers, destroyer tenders, supply ships, transports and even a 200-foot tug.
He was making his final naval voyage when he had another death-defying experience.
"I don't know how I made it," he said last Saturday as his wife's small poodle, Sara, sat in his lap.
"I was on the fantail dumping some stuff out the back and I didn't see a big wave coming. The wave hit me and took the garbage can and knocked me into the gun turret.
"Somehow, my hand got hooked on the gun turret. I don't know how. But if I hadn't, I'd have fallen right over on the screws and those big propellers would have ground me up."
Stout was raised in Leonville, Louisiana, a farming community near Opelousas. His sharecropping family worked the fields by hand. Their home had no electricity and no indoor plumbing.
"We stayed barefoot most of the time," he recalls.
At 17, in the heart of the Depression, Stout left home to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, a public works program for unemployed, unmarried men. With the CCC, he spent time building parks in Oregon.
He returned to Louisiana and enlisted in the Navy.
"There was a big sign in Opelousas," Stout recalled. "This guy on the sign was pointing at me, saying 'We want you!' so I piddled around and went and joined."
On leave in 1944, Stout married Delma Courville of Sunset, Louisiana, and the couple had nine children, all of whom attended Bridge City schools.
That large family is one of the reasons for his long life, says his second wife, Cherry, a Port Arthur native Stout married after Delma passed away in 1999.
"He's got a big family, between his kids and mine," she said. "You get better or else."
After the war, Stout drove a city bus in Port Arthur for two years before becoming a salesman for a grocery wholesaler, retiring in 1988.
With grandchildren and now great-grandchildren to visit, he's stayed busy.
"I retired, so now I just work around the house," Stout said.
When not working, he enjoys time in his sunroom full of blooming plants and flowers. He likes to watch sports on TV sometimes and ends every night watching western movies, he said.
Every day for Stout begins about 6 a.m.
"He gets up and takes the dog out," Cherry said. "Then he and the dog go back to bed.
"We watch [Catholic] Mass together at 7 every morning."
On a typical day last week, Stout at a waffle for breakfast with peanut butter and jelly. For lunch, he had a Whataburger. When he decided it was too large for him, he crumbled up what was left of the hamburger patty and gave it to Sara, the dog.
"I keep him busy," Cherry said. "He just thinks he's going to rest."
Stout still cuts the grass on his home's corner lot sitting astride his gleaming green and gold John Deere riding lawnmower.
"I decided I'm not running the weed-eater anymore," he confessed.
But Cedric Stout's run is apt to continue for a good many more years.
"I have a pacemaker for my heart and I have to get it checked out every so often," Stout said. "The last time, the doctor said it was still good for a few more years, and so am I."
With Pearl Harbor Day's 80th anniversary coming next month, the U.S. Navy has again invited Bridge City's Stout to Hawaii to take part in the official remembrance ceremony.
He believes he's the last living member of the USS Utah crew.
But he won't be going.
Just as he's turned down similar invitations in the past.
Maybe it's all those years sloshing around at sea without solid ground to walk on. Maybe it's the appreciation for what he has in Southeast Texas.
"I've seen the whole thing on TV [the movie 'Pearl Harbor'] two or three times," he said.
Was the movie realistic?
"Ohhhh, yes, it was terrible. We were lucky we got out of there. I just don't want to go back."