County’s oldest vet casts absentee vote
Bill Mohr is a survivor. The 108-year-old Hatboro man survived a childhood of poverty, a near debilitating operation as a child that left him with a severe speech impediment, service in the Army infantry during World War II — he is the oldest survivor of World War II in Montgomery County — and a major back injury.
He’s seen a lot during all those years and has managed to live long enough to see something probably unimaginable when he was born in 1908 — a woman candidate for president of the United States.
On Friday, Oct. 28, Mohr cast an absentee ballot vote for Hillary Clinton, though the potential for her to become the first woman president didn’t seem to faze him.
“I never gave it much thought,” Mohr said as to whether he thought he’d live long enough to see a female candidate from a major party run for president of the United States. “Today women are finally able to show their intelligence,” he said Oct. 31, seated at the kitchen table in the house he built himself.
“Women are just as intelligent as men,” said the centenarian, who attributes his longevity to being positive. “They have a broader view on all the problems.”
The grandson of an Irish immigrant, Mohr lost his father when he was 3 years old, and his young mother was forced to place him and his twin brother in an orphanage and send his sister to live with an uncle, his daughter Joanne Hartshorne said. Five years later, he was reunited with his mother after she remarried.
An operation when he was a toddler left him with a major speech impairment, but after he won a fouryear scholarship to St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, a Jesuit priest taught him how to speak, Hartshorne said. He had to leave school when he was a junior, however, when the family moved to Hatboro and they were unable to afford the cost of transportation to get him to school, she said.
After his story was aired on a local TV station,
Mohr was awarded a diploma from St. Joe’s Prep when he was 105.
When he was in his 30s, Mohr joined the Army Reserve and was called to active duty after Pearl Harbor, Hartshorne said. He saw action in North Africa, Italy and France as a member of the 45th Infantry Division, helped stop trains headed for concentration camps near the end of the war and was part of the force that liberated Dachau, she said.
He received the Légion d’honneur, the French Legion of Honor, after being nominated by French Jewish citizens, she said.
After suffering a major back injury during the war, he was sent home and had reconstructive surgery, she said.
A father of four and grandfather of two, Mohr, along with his brother, owned a nursery in Hatboro for about 30 years, Hartshorne said. After retiring at age 63, he went to a local machine shop, where he was taught to operate a lathe, cutting titanium and worked until age 93, she said.
He and his wife served as the grand marshals for the Hatboro Tricentennial, Hartshorne said. Her father took care of her mother, who eventually suffered from dementia, for about a decade, passing away last year, she said.
Though her father always followed politics and was pretty much a lifelong Republican, he was not a fan of war — a lifelong poet, one of his works decries the horrors of war — and became disillusioned with the party during the George W. Bush presidency, she said.
He voted for President Obama and now for Hilary Clinton, two people whose efforts to help the poor resonate with him, Hartshorne said.
Asked directly why he cast his vote for Clinton, Mohr responded simply, “She has the most sense.”
World War II veteran 108-yearold Bill Mohr reflects on voting for the first female candidate for president.