Whidbey Island is home to a number of centenarians, and Herbert E. Bacon joined those ranks in August.
Bacon was born on Aug. 26, 1918, on an eight-acre farm near Billings, Mont. He grew up helping his family on their farm during the Great Depression before moving to Seattle in 1942 when he joined the Navy before World War II. He started as a hospital corpsman and later became a 2nd Class Pharmacist.
After the war ended, Bacon stayed in Seattle where he met his wife Rachel, also known as Lila, when they were dancing one night. They later married and had four kids and lived in Wallingford for many years. During this time, Bacon started working as a maintenance handling supervisor at Boeing and continued to work there for over 30 years.
Bacon and his wife bought property in 1958 on Bells Beach Road in Langley while still living in Wallingford. The house was next to his older brother’s home.
“It was just a cabin back then,” Bacon said, and the family used it on the weekends and for vacations. There were only about 15 families living along the beach year-round during that time, and Bacon liked it because it was the family’s escape from the city and his job at Boeing. “[It was] a hideaway, you might say,” according to Bacon.
He and his family would fish, crab and dig clams on their beach. They would also go water-skiing — without wet suits — during the summer.
One Memorial Day weekend, Bacon and his older brother were skiing together. In the time it took for him to glance back at his brother, Bacon hit a sandbar and landed on his neck.
Though in pain, Bacon took the boat out of the water, cleaned it, and drove home to Wallingford before his wife took him to the hospital.
“That’s just the kind of guy he is,” daughter Carol Clark said. He broke the vertebrae in his neck and spent two weeks in the hospital.
“The doctor said it was good no one was tailgating me on my way home … would’ve been curtains for me,” Bacon said with a laugh.
Bacon moved to the cabin full-time in the early 1980s and had it rebuilt. Since then he’s been an active member of South Whidbey Lions Club and the Langley United Methodist Church.
“I’m the oldest member of the church and I guess I’m the oldest of the club too,” he said.
Clark said her father has helped many of his South Whidbey neighbors, mowing lawns or helping with other projects. He was featured as a Hometown Hero in the South Whidbey Record in 2001 for his neighborly spirit, which he told the newspaper was the result of the kindness his family received during the Great Depression.
Bacon said he doesn’t know the key to his longevity. “I pose that question to myself and can’t come up with a smart answer,” he said. “I don’t know…I had a desk job for 30 years, but I wasn’t sitting down,” he said.
His daughter added that her father is rarely ever sitting down and “always has a project he’s working on.”