WALKER - Jim Pappas, who turned 90 years old on Sunday, has enjoyed a long life filled with family and friends, business success and community service.
Two of the many highlights for Pappas have been associations that began 44 and 71 years ago.
Pappas joined the AMBUCS service organization in Parkersburg in 1970, shortly after the local chapter was formed by charter members Bud Taylor, Lew Pifer and Ash Broadwater.
Photo courtesy of South Wales Evening Post
Jim Pappas of Wood County looks over photographs with Jean Huntley at Huntley’s home in Llandybie, Wales, on June 25, 1998.
Saturday morning at the Bob Evans restaurant in Parkersburg's Park Shopping Center, AMBUCS members wished Pappas a happy birthday and reflected on his contributions to the community service organization.
"Jim has been an asset to the community and AMBUCS," said Taylor. He noted that Pappas was instrumental in leading club fundraisers, which benefited the community, and building wheelchair ramps.
"What I've admired about Jim is he was always there to help someone who needed it," Taylor said Saturday.
And he contributed without seeking any recognition, Taylor said.
"It has made me feel good to help others," Pappas of Walker responded over a hearty breakfast.
He said he liked the "good people" who have been members of AMBUCS over the years.
"Jimmy contributes his time to help AMBUCS tremendously," said Eric Little, a club member for about seven years. "We still consider him to be an active member," Little said.
Until a few years ago, Pappas was still building ramps for handicapped people.
"He would do anything he could to help the community," Little said. "He leads by example."
As for the friendship that began 71 years ago, Pappas was 19 years old and in the U.S. Merchant Marine when his Liberty ship docked at Swansea, Wales, in 1943. He had graduated a year earlier with the January Class of 1942 at Parkersburg High School.
The Merchant Marine members are sea-going civilians who supported the U.S. military effort during World War II by transporting tanks, supplies and troops to Wales and other locations.
On a second trip to Wales in 1943, Pappas met 17-year-old Jean Huntley, who was working in a post office in Swansea.
"She was cute," Pappas said.
"I remember it all very well" about how she and Pappas met during World War II in Wales, Huntley, 87, said by telephone Monday from her home in Ammanford, Wales.
"I was delivering stamps and passing by the ships on the docks. I got into a conversation with Jim (who was on a ship) as I was passing," Huntley said.
Huntley and Pappas eventually went on a date to the local cinema, she said, noting it was the beginning of a long friendship.
After the war, Pappas and Huntley corresponded for several years.
Pappas' mother, Pauline, mailed gifts of clothes and food to Huntley and her aunt and uncle in Wales, which is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain on the Atlantic Ocean.
"Jim's mom was a wonderful woman. She was so good to me," Huntley said.
Pappas and Huntley eventually lost contact of each other as they raised families and worked on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
In 1997, Huntley surprised Pappas, a Parkersburg businessman, with a telephone call and their correspondence resumed.
Pappas returned the surprise when he visited Huntley in Wales in June 1998. Their reunion was featured on the front page of the South Wales Evening Post on June 26, 1998.
The two friends visited the docks in Swansea, where they first met during the war in 1943. "It was a fantastic visit," Pappas said.
Pappas said he telephones Huntley several times a week and would like to visit with his friend again.
When asked how he was feeling Monday, Pappas replied, in his usual upbeat manner, "fantastic!"