Ernest “Ernie” Hedges will turn 100 on October 19… or is it October 20? After celebrating his birthday for years on October 19, Ernie realized his birth certificate stated October 20 as his date of birth. After asking one of his older sisters, he discovered he was born right after midnight, and since he had a brother and sister who were born on October 20, his family decided to celebrate his birthday on the 19th.
Ernie was one of 10 children, born in Courtland, Kansas. After graduating from high school, he moved to Cambridge, Wisconsin to live with his sister Grace. Neither could find a job so they decided to purchase a bakery. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was drafted in the Army and stationed in Europe where he met his wife Cina in Florence, Italy in 1943. They were married in 1945 and she came to live in the United States. They had four children, two sons and two daughters, and decided to move to Florida in 1964. They bought a bakery in downtown Melbourne and became known for their sprouted whole wheat bread and wedding cakes, which were decorated by his wife. After 18 years, Ernie retired from the bakery business and in 1998 his wife passed away from lung cancer.
So what’s the secret to his longevity? Eggs every morning for breakfast, whole wheat bread, dark chocolate and relaxation. “I’ve learned stress is the worst thing for a person,” he says. He credits his faith with helping him stay relaxed and recites his favorite verses from the Bible to help. The only prescription medication he takes is for his thyroid.
When his children began asking about their family history, “To be honest, I didn’t know,” Ernie says. So he decided to write a book about his life so that future generations in his family would know their history. “Flowers for Cina” was published in 2006. He also hopes that the book will encourage other people to write about their lives. The book can be ordered online or at any major bookstore. It is also available at the West Melbourne Library.
Ernie stays active, volunteering for the Melbourne Police Department once a week on Friday, taking people’s fingerprints. He also enjoys working in his garden, growing cabbage, tomatoes and other vegetables.
So how does it feel to be turning 100? “It’s hard to believe,” Ernie says. “Time has gone by fast.” To celebrate, his family is planning a reunion including his children, 10 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, nieces, nephews and cousins.