107-Year-Old WWII Veteran Credits His Long Life to Beer and Popcorn

Jack Coe, New Zealand's oldest man, even celebrated with a caramel corn birthday cake.

Caramel popcorn and beer in a glass

Irina Marwan / Getty Images

When Jack Coe was born in May 1916, the world was two years into the Great War, everyone was still more than a decade from seeing a film with sound, and now-essential inventions like hair dryers, zippers, and even sliced loaves of bread didn’t exist yet. It’s almost impossible to imagine all of the changes and discoveries that Coe has seen in his century-plus on this earth.

On Thursday, he celebrated his 107th birthday with a birthday card from King Charles, a slice of cake, and a cold beer to wash it down with. Coe, believed to be the oldest man in New Zealand, was born in a tent on New Zealand’s North Island, and other than a stint serving abroad in New Caledonia during World War II, he’s spent his entire life in the same general region. 

According to the NZ Herald, he went fishing regularly until he turned 100, and still walked into the town of Marton to get a cup of coffee and a snack. Of course everyone wants to know the secret of hitting triple digits, and Coe was quick to credit caramel popcorn and beer. (It should be noted his aforementioned birthday cake was caramel corn-themed.)

His son, Peter Coe, seconded that assessment, adding that his dad did have a more balanced diet. "He did have a large veggie garden, and he always ate home-grown vegetables throughout the years,” Peter told Newstalk ZB. (The younger Coe also added that his dad took “a man’s multivitamin” every day.

Coe’s popcorn and beer habit fit right in with some of the other unorthodox-sounding secrets of some of the world’s longest-lived people. Sister André, a nun who lived to the astounding age of 118, was a regular red wine drinker (and celebrated her 117th b-day with a multi-course meal of foie gras, port, capon, red wine, Baked Alaska, and champagne). The 108-year-old Englishwoman Julie Iverson was also a regular red wine drinker, while 106-year-old Dorothy Nedd gave thanks to both her religious faith and her love of McDonald’s Big Macs.

Although cake and a breakfast beer aren’t a bad way to kick off your birthday, Jack Coe was still a little down on his big day. “I can’t go fishing,” he told the Global Herald. “So that’s a bit rough.” We’re crossing our fingers he can get out on the water for his 108th.

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