Several volumes of hand-curated albums line a shelf in Frank Hoell’s room, their pages filled with photographs and musings chronicling his life, travels and family history.
“I collect years,” Hoell said. “I deal in memories. I don’t think of tomorrow; I think of yesterday. Tomorrow — I don’t really care what happens tomorrow. But I do remember and smile when I think about what I was doing yesterday.”
Born Aug. 5, 1922, Hoell no doubt wears a smile as he recalls celebrating his 100th loop around the sun Friday with family and friends at his senior living home in Gainesville.
A native of St. Louis, graduate of the University of Missouri, and U.S. Army veteran who served his country in World War II and the Korean War, it was local radio pioneer and fellow university alumnus John Jacobs Jr. that connected the dots between Hoell and Georgia.
According to Hoell, their paths crossed by happenstance and the two became very good friends, though “the only thing we had in common was we were dating in the same sorority.”
That sorority girl was Hoell’s college sweetheart, Gloria, to whom he was married 69 and a half years. The couple had three children, Hank, Dick and Susan, as well as three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
“I have been married or having children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren all of my life — and it’s been a very pleasant experience,” Hoell said.
Gloria died in 2016, but her photo hangs on the wall facing Hoell’s bed so that her face is the first and last thing he sees each day.
“She was a good one. She was a wonderful mother, and she raised three really nifty kids. I really, really was happy. We could afford to travel together, and we found that to be a very, very pleasant experience.”
The Hoells traveled to “quite a few countries in Europe,” he said, as well as northern Africa and China.
“All that came from showing up at your workstation every morning.”
After his military career, Hoell worked in the advertising business, primarily doing advertising work with the Coca-Cola Company, which required a great deal of travel between the Hoells’ home in Winnetka, Illinois, and Atlanta.
“Georgia is very important in our lives; we spent a lot of time here before we lived here,” Hoell said.
In the 1990s, Hoell and Gloria retired to Savannah.
“Then one day (Jacobs) said, ‘I think you ought to move over here to Gainesville,’” Hoell recalled. “He hadn’t been wrong so far, so we followed along with his good advice and came to Gainesville.”
According to Hoell’s son, Hank, while his short-term memory and general mobility aren’t quite what they once were, Hoell’s long-term memory is “meticulously intact.”
“For a guy 100 years old, I feel good,” Hoell said. “I may not be this way tomorrow; I’m understanding and accepting (of) that. I’m delighted with what I ended up with. … I am the luckiest guy in the world. Well, I’ve had a few bad things (happen to me), but nothing that has been really terrible.”
In terms of family, Hoell would say he lucked out there, too.
“I have wonderful friends,” Hoell said, gesturing to the three generations of descendants gathered around him. “They are really, really lovely people. They may fight among themselves, but they don’t fight when I am around. This is a good crowd.”
According to one of his daughters-in-law, Amelie, humor has played a significant role in Hoell’s life; that, and a positive outlook on whatever comes his way.
“I have never been here before, and I’m never going to be here again,” Hoell said of his 100th birthday. “I don’t know where I’ll be next month or year or whatever, but anyway, it has been good. The reason that I have lived this long is because everything has been good. I don’t know if I have, for some unknown reason, chosen the right way or, if for some reason or another, it worked out that way. I am very, very fortunate. It all worked out just fine.”