DOVER — State Street Assisted Living was abuzz with excitement Tuesday, as staff and residents prepared for a celebration that was a century in the making.
John “Gordon” Blythe turned 100 that day, and friends and family came to mark the milestone with a big bash, complete with dancing along to DJ Sky Brady.
Mr. Blythe’s career as a World War II B-17 pilot was so illustrious it warranted its own chapter in the book, “Heroes of WWII,” written by local author John Reardon.
For Robin Aschenberg, it was an honor to stitch his Quilt of Valor, which he received alongside nine other veterans during a ceremony last year. The Quilts of Valor initiative’s mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting, handmade blankets.
“I just feel terribly honored to be able to give him that,” said Mrs. Aschenberg. “I truly love making quilts and giving them because, to me, it shows a great amount of love. Even though I didn’t know him until tonight, it makes me feel good that I can pass on some gratitude to him for his sacrifice.”
Mr. Blythe piloted B-17 bombers and flew 35 missions in Europe during the war. He enlisted in 1942 when he was 21 and, nearly a year to the day after he began training, he graduated as a second lieutenant.
He joined his first crew as a co-pilot in the 398 Bomb Group and was placed at Royal Air Force Station Nuthampstead, England.
He flew several missions with that group of soldiers, before serving as a pilot with another crew.
“I was talking to my commanding officer one night at the officers’ club at the bar. I said, ‘When am I going to get my crew?’” he said in an interview last year, noting that he was only a co-pilot at the time.
But his commanding officer had faith.
“The next day, I got my crew,” he noted.
Lt. Blythe served with those men until the end of the war. Their last mission was over Berlin, and that was the only time a crew member was injured, he said.
Today, Lt. Blythe is the last survivor of a crew of nine members.
“The biggest thing I brought back was we beat the objective we went to defeat. We won the war. We knew it was evil,” he said. “We went out to fight it, and we defeated it. I have become a Christian since then; I know that, since God is in control, good is always going to conquer evil in the final analysis.”
He said last year that he was thrilled to be alongside other veterans as they received their Quilts of Valor, surrounded by friends and family.
“It’s quite an honor,” he said. “It was a combination of pleased, surprised and honored.”
Lt. Blythe has lived in Delaware since 1984, where he worked with Equitable Bank until retirement in 1988. He enrolled at Wesley College at age 70 to study history.