104 years down, more to go: Long Neck church marks centenarian’s birthday

By Glenn Rolfe
Posted 5/25/24

Herb Faulls doesn't have major plans to celebrate his 104th birthday Sunday, other than attending service at East Gate Presbyterian Church in Long Neck.

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104 years down, more to go: Long Neck church marks centenarian’s birthday


This story has been updated.

LONG NECK — Herb Faulls doesn't have major plans to celebrate his 104th birthday Sunday, other than attending service at East Gate Presbyterian Church.

It’s a common activity to attend early worship gatherings there, said the decorated World War II Navy veteran.

“I have been going to this church since I came down here,” he said, referring to his relocation from Pennsylvania to Sussex County in 1987, with his wife, Ellen Faulls.

The couple moved into a retirement home in Pot-Nets Creekside at the time. Ms. Faulls passed away in 2019, at age 97.

That same familiar church hosted a birthday party for Mr. Faulls, now a deacon emeritus, on Saturday, presenting a cake, an ice cream social and gifts.

The active centenarian still gets around. He drives, running errands and shopping for groceries, as well as completes yardwork and cooks.

“He still enjoys house- and yardwork. He drives daily and looks forward to Sunday worship services at East Gate,” said Pastor Kevin Gladding at Saturday’s event. “Herb, congratulations. God bless you.”

Vince Beddia, owner of La Dolce Vita restaurant in Long Neck, has called Mr. Faulls a good friend for more than 28 years.

“Twenty years ago, up to a couple years before COVID, Herb and I used to make breakfast here for Easter Sunday. And he would make the best chipped-beef gravy in the world,” Mr. Beddia said. “He’s very humble. And his memory is so sharp. It is unbelievable.”

Also Saturday, state Rep. Jeff Hilovsky presented a tribute from the House of Representatives in recognition of Mr. Faulls’ military service and many years of life.

“We’re delighted to make some recognition of your contribution,” he remarked, “not only as a military person but also as a productive member of society and a person who has devoted much of your life to the service of God and your church.”

Mr. Faulls and his wife bore no children. So, the East Gate congregation has become his extended family.

Four years ago, during pandemic shutdowns, to observe Mr. Faulls’ 100th birthday, East Gate members recognized him with a drive-by horn-honking celebration. Some fellow worshipers periodically visit or call him, or extend dinner invitations.

However, while Mr. Faulls enjoys good health for a 104-year-old, there was a recent medical scare when an infection and dehydration caused him to black out several times.

On both occasions, his friends, Judy and Jim Thistle, found him in his residence.

“The first time, he refused to go (to the hospital). The next day, we called. He didn’t answer. We found him on the living room floor,” Ms. Thistle said. “Jim said, ‘This time you are going to the hospital.’”

Mr. Faulls recalled the incident, with thanks to the Thistles. “I passed out in the house. I was dehydrated. I had a urinary infection. They said that was enough to knock you out,” he said. “When I woke up, there were my two dear friends, Jim and Judy Thistle. They are my guardian angels. I wound up in the hospital. I just finished my rehab.”

That recovery and accompanying vigor impressed the medical staff, Ms. Thistle said.

“The people at Beebe (Healthcare) couldn’t believe it. He was a star,” she said, adding that she and her husband subsequently encouraged Mr. Faulls to use a medical alert device.

It was May 26, 1920, that Herbert Thomas Faulls was born, in Philadelphia. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943 and served on several ships in the Pacific campaign, including a destroyer escort, whose mission was to sink enemy Japanese submarines. His crew scored some kills.

Further, while Mr. Faulls said he has no secret to his good health and longevity — perhaps other than his faith in God — he never drank alcohol and only smoked briefly when he entered the military.

“He is a very proudful man. He is very independent. He enjoys doing things for himself. And he has not had (any traffic) accidents,” Ms. Thistle said. “He is an amazing man. It has been a privilege to have known him.”

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