Known for jogging a mile a day in all kinds of weather until he was 99 – and still walking the mile then – Edward Stephen McCauley passed away in his sleep early Tuesday morning in Columbia at the age of 100.
Mr. McCauley, a World War II veteran whose permanent residence was on the outskirts of Altoona, PA, was visiting Howard County for a small family gathering on Saturday to celebrate his 100th birthday, which was March 19. At the birthday party, Mr. McCauley was astonished to receive proclamations from elected officials; notes from U.S. generals thanking him for his service; gifts from Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis; and a video greeting and poem written in his honor by his favorite author, Alexander McCall Smith. Mr. McCauley’s family presented him with “The Book of Ed,” a collection of photos and favorite memories written by family and friends, as well as memories of his own that Mr. McCauley had written to one of his daughters.
Mr. McCauley was born in Scottdale, PA, in 1921, to Charles Alva McCauley and Eleanor Kathleen Kirsch, and was the oldest of six children.
Growing up during the Great Depression, Mr. McCauley later fascinated his children with stories of his life in that era, when he had jobs picking raspberries from 6 am until dark for $1, carrying coal into residential chutes for $1 a ton, and selling eggs door-to-door for 5 cents a dozen.
After high school, he got a scholarship to Penn State University and was majoring in Physics when World War II started. He got permission from the dean to load up on his courses and graduate in three years so he could serve in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in the South Pacific – a lineage of service that dates back to the American Revolution, and he was a member of Sons of the American Revolution.
While he was serving in the Army, Mr. McCauley’s aunt, Mary Grace Kirsch, was a police reporter in Altoona making hospital rounds, and she noticed a smart, pretty young nurse named Mary Jane Fabian. She persuaded Miss Fabian to write to her nephew while he was overseas, and they fell in love through their letters. They were married soon after he returned home and celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary a few months before Mrs. McCauley died, in 2008. Mr. McCauley adored his wife, and his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and they adored him right back.
When the war ended, Mr. and Mrs. McCauley moved to Philadelphia, where Mr. McCauley taught Physics and Math at St. Joseph’s College. Several years later, he took a job in the private sector as an electrical engineer specializing in communications at RCA. His projects there included astronaut communications for the Apollo 11 moon landing LEM, the Trident submarine radio room, and the Navy’s P-3C sub chaser. He taught himself Morse Code so he could earn his ham radio license and remained an avid ham radio operator for the rest of his life.
Besides his early morning daily jog, Mr. McCauley was renowned for the magnificent tomatoes he grew in his garden, his voracious reading and love for the written word, his wit, his passion for Penn State football, his recitation from memory of long poems, and his avid and competitive bridge games. When Covid-19 ended the local, in-person duplicate-bridge games he regularly attended, Mr. McCauley simply went online and played seven days a week against robots and players from all over the world – and often won. On Monday, March 22, the last day of his life, Mr. McCauley solved a difficult Sudoku and a cryptogram in the morning, enjoyed some of his favorite foods for lunch, and played bridge online in the evening, doing well enough to win Masters Points, before heading to bed one last time.
Mr. McCauley’s engaging, inspiring presence is acutely missed by his family. He is survived by three children, Maureen McCauley, Eileen Dibler, and Sheila Young (Rick); three grandchildren, Beth Petralia (Joe), Jeffrey Dibler (Ashley), and Owen Dresser (Melissa); five great-grandchildren; and one sibling, Sister Kathleen McCauley.
Plans for a memorial service are pending.
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