SIDNEY—Norris Cromes will celebrate 100 years of life on Jan. 19, 2020.
“I was just always active,” Cromes said when asked if he had any secrets to how he lived to 100. “I think the good lord has something to do with it.”
Cromes was born in Sidney, in the 800 block of South Miami Street on Jan. 19, 1920, to the late Ralph V. and Carrie Cromes. He attended Sidney High School and participated in many sports, including basketball, football, and tennis. In 1937 he and his brother Lloyd Cromes were on the undefeated basketball team. He was also quarterback of the football team in 1938, that went undefeated. That year, he also qualified for the state tennis championships.
Following high school, Cromes joined the United States Air Force on Oct. 20, 1941. He was sent to Champaign, Illinois, for basic training in what was supposed to be six months of training in mechanics. He spent five days there before being shipped to Biloxi, Mississippi, where he was when Pearl Harbor was bombed by Japan.
On May 20, 1942, he graduated from the Air Corps technical school and became an instructor in propeller maintenance and installation. He became a propeller specialist and worked on a project developing a single-engine plane that could climb over the Alps in Europe. Cromes was then transferred to Italy, and while in Europe would travel to Marseilles, France. By the end of the war, Cromes was in Mannheim, Germany.
Returning to Sidney after the war, Cromes attended embalming school in order to go into the family business his father had started in January of 1939. It was at this time he met his future wife, Ruth Dolores March.
“I got home in 1945, just before Christmas, and she had lived in Sidney about two years before that. We met going to some dances around here. We only knew each other six, seven months before we got married. Everything came together just right,” Cromes said. “She was quite a lady.”
Cromes married March on Aug. 31, 1946. They were married for 63 years before her death in 2010, and had a son, Gary, in May 1948.
Cromes stayed active in his life, playing tennis up to his 80s, traveling as far as Wyoming to hunt with friends, and traveling to and from Florida many times with his wife. He even got to witness space launches from time to time.
“My wife and I were able to be down there for 28 winters, back and forth. We were only about 28 miles away from [NASA], it was really impressive, to have ring-side seats, so to speak, when they did all that,” Cromes said.
One launch they witnessed while in Florida was the 1986 Challenger disaster.
“They were within a few miles of where we were at, really,” Cromes said.
One of the biggest changes he recalls is how the prices of everything has changed.
“You could buy a hamburger for 5 cents. You could get a whole meal for a quarter. That’s the way it was,” Cromes said.
For a summer, Cromes worked at Kroger, and recalls having to write everything down by hand, and that $5 could get you very far for a week.
“You could get two loaves of bread for 2 or 3 cents a loaf,” Cromes said. “If you made a dollar an hour, you were doing great, and you could buy a lot for that dollar.”
Reach the writer at 937-538-4825.