Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable
lessons on how to succeed in business and in life.
The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on September 29, 2009

Today: How businessman Herb Kirk attained some of his greatest accomplishments after age 60, as he lived to a robust 106.

And how you and I might also have some of our greatest accomplishments later in life.

Growing up in Newcastle, Pa, Herb kept himself in top shape playing football and running track in high school. He then enrolled at Lehigh University.

But when the U.S. entered World War 1 he and some of his buddies joined the Navy Flying Corps anxious for adventure. As a combat pilot, Herb flew reconnaissance and bombing missions.

This left him with a lifetime of memories, some exciting as a young adventurer flying the primitive aircraft of that day, his life at risk as he flew his missions.

And some tragic for his confrontations with other aircraft and his bombs cost others their lives.

When the War ended Herb returned to the U.S. determined to build a successful business career. And in business, he was still ever the adventurer.

His career was a roller coaster, taking him through the glamorous 1920’s, the horrific struggle of the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and the sacrifices of World War 2 in the 1940’s and then the boom times of the 1950’s.

Herb was creative, becoming an engineer, a salesman and then a business owner, running a firm that made bathtubs, sinks and toilets. He also made high end specialty dinnerware.

Sometimes he fared well and at other times he lost out but ultimately Herb succeeded.

Retiring from business at 60, Herb wanted to pursue other activities and he and his wife Eleanor moved to Bozeman, Montana where she had family.

There he became a potter, an avid tennis player all the way into his 90’s and a runner, running in races past the age of 100.

Even in his 90’s, he would run for as long as an hour, four or five times a week, covering roughly four miles each run. When he was 104 Herb became the oldest man to finish the annual Montana Governor’s 5K race.

“It keeps me in good shape, active, interesting,” Herb told “Good Morning America.” “I wouldn’t do without some exercise. I’d be downhill fast.”

But Herb not only exercised his body; he kept his mind active as well. At the age of 97 he became the oldest college graduate in Montana State University history when he earned his degree in Art. He was surely also one of the oldest people to graduate from college in U.S. history.

It kept him engaged with people, especially young people with plenty of energy and new ideas.

And that engagement continued. In 2000 when Herb turned 105, Montana State helped celebrate his birthday. At their Homecoming football game, nearly 10,000 football fans joined his family and friends and sang “Happy Birthday” to him.

The U.S. Navy also helped the celebration as they had one of their jets do a fly-by in his honor. For Herb was the world’s oldest living World War 1 combat pilot.

Then prior to the game, Herb was driven on to the field by his son Charley in a green convertible. And one by one, the announcer told the crowd of Herb’s many achievements.

Among those achievements, at age 104 France named Herb a Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, its highest award, for helping to protect their nation during World War 1.

It was a beautiful birthday celebration. Herb would live another year and then at 106, the day after his birthday; he passed away from pneumonia in his home, surrounded by his family.

It was two years after Eleanor, the love of his life, passed away after 74 years of marriage.

She and Herb had two children and ultimately five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. And dear reader, a loving family in whatever form it takes is one of life’s greatest blessings and a real measure of success.

Success Tip of the Week: As Herb Kirk reinvented himself throughout his life, you can too as you enjoy exciting new opportunities. But he would never have attained all that he did nor live so long had he not kept his body and mind so fit, something each of us should commit ourselves to do.

Editor’s Note: For more details of Herb Kirk’s life, please see his Los Angeles Times obit, “Herbert S. Kirk, 106; WW I Pilot, Potter and Active Senior Athlete” at: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/oct/08/local/me-54749 and The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “Herbert S. Kirk, Naval Aviator #1282” at: http://www.geocities.com/ww1fighters/features/herbkirk.htm?200912

In the next KazanToday: What Andrew Carnegie, Cary Grant and Sidney Poitier have in common that could benefit you.

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Many of these short, inspirational success stories are about people from all walks of life who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve remarkable results. These stories contain practical advice and a recipe for success for each of these renowned individuals. Some of their stories may help you to avoid some of the costly and time consuming mistakes that many of us make in life and at work. Learn from some of history's greatest winners on how to become a winner yourself, no matter what the obstacle, and no matter how daunting the task before you may seem. Good luck!
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