The World War II Veteran celebrates his birthday today, Sept. 2
ATASCADERO — Born on Sept. 2, 1922, World War II veteran Charles “Cap” Capper will celebrate his 100th birthday this Friday.
“If I go to pick up a couple of prescriptions, they always ask you your birthdate, and I’ll tell them ‘Sept. 2, 1922, do the math,'” Cap said with a laugh.
Cap was born and raised in a small town in Illinois. And before joining the military at the age of 20 in 1942, he had never left that state. After becoming part of the 8th Cavalry Reconnaissance in the 8th Division, he traveled from one coast to the other before being shipped overseas.
“I was stationed up at Belmont, in Petaluma, and we were supposed to be defending the West Coast,” he said. “I was there for a while, and then I went to Oklahoma for about a month, and then I went to New Jersey and got my shots for overseas.”
He landed in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Dec. 3, 1943, but his ship continued around the horn before he departed in Scotland. Cap caught a train to the Southern part of England in Scotland for advanced training at Tidworth Barracks six months before the D-Day invasion.
“I landed on Omaha Beach [in Normandy, France] July 4, 1944, and went through France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg,” Cap added. “We linked up with the Russians in Schwerin, Germany; it was May 3, 1945. All of these things are really vivid in my mind.”
Cap fought in the Battle of Hurtgen Forest, and while the series of battles lasted from Sept. 19 thru Dec. 16, he was there for seven days. Cap also liberated a concentration camp during his time in the 8th Cavalry Reconnaissance.
“You see, at that time, we didn’t have the clothing or near the guns that they have now. But it was quite an experience,” Cap continued.
In June of 1946, he was discharged at Fort Leonard in Missouri, which is where he met his wife, Betty.
Nine years later, in 1955, Cap moved his family out West to Oxnard, and around 18 years after that, in the early ’70s, they moved to Atascadero.
“I liked California, so I moved up here about 48 or 49 years ago,” Cap said.
After his wife’s passing 20 years ago, Cap started delivering meals to local seniors through Meals on Wheels. His delivery route included Atascadero and Templeton, and he would drive about 25 miles a day, five days a week. He continued delivering meals for 13 years before retiring at the age of 92. Up until he stopped driving six months ago, Cap also enjoyed helping his neighbors and friends by driving them to appointments and on errands.
“I enjoyed doing it. I benefited. It kept my mind off of unpleasantries,” added Cap.
Cap also went on to say how things have changed in the last 100 years, from phones to refrigerators, and the addition of the flushing toilet instead of the outhouses he grew up with. He also went into some of the changes he’s seen in Atascadero.
“When I came here, that was a two-lane road,” he said of El Camino Real. “Once in a while, you’d see a pickup go by with a gun rack and a barking dog. A horse driving down the street.”
In 2014, Cap was Grand Marshal during Atascadero’s Colony Days and was named Senior Citizen of the Year in San Luis Obispo County in 2013, among the many other accolades throughout the years on the Central Coast.
“I attribute my longevity to my father [who lived to be 96] and my parents and Dr. [Gregg] Ellison,” Cap said of hitting 100. “He’s the best. He’s been taking care of me since I’ve been here.”
Happy Birthday, Cap.