With friends, Herbert Clabo celebrates 103 years

Apr. 08, 2014 @ 11:46 PM

Retired Citizens of the Smokies held a celebration for Herbert Clabo, a member who turned 103 on April 2, at the Gatlinburg Community Center Monday afternoon. Clabo grew up in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Sevier County has been his home, period, for 103 years,” said Mary Porter of the Retired Citizens of the Smokies.

Members of the group, as well as other guests, gathered for a meeting prior to the celebration. After the meeting was a 30 minute question-and-answer session with Clabo, in which he talked about his age, his past and how things have changed over the years.

“How does it feel to be 103 years old?” Clabo said, repeating the first question asked. “I can’t walk as fast as I used to.”

He was asked about how school was different when he was a boy, and what forms of punishment were used then. He replied, “I was always a good boy when I was in school,” but that he did experience one punishment: he had to put is nose in a ring on the chalkboard.

Clabo said that when he was young, he and other young boys would play baseball with a “yarn sock ball” and that they never had a large, flat area to use as a field because “you didn’t have to have flat ground to play baseball; we would just take that ball and bat it around and throw and catch it, but we never had a real team.”

Usually each family would have a musical instrument, Clabo said, and he picked up the guitar at a young age, and eventually the banjo. “When you pick the guitar, you have to sing with it too,” he said.

When asked what food one should eat to live to be 103, Clabo responded, “Eat the food that your body likes, not the food that tastes good.”

After the question-and-answer session was complete, everyone in the room sang “Happy Birthday” to Clabo, and he blew out the candles on his cake.

He was presented with a plaque from Marty Nicely, director of the Gatlinburg Department of Parks and Recreation, on behalf of the City of Gatlinburg.

“I want to tell you what an honor it is for me to be able to present this plaque,” Nicely said. “What a treasure this community has had all these years with Herb Clabo being part of it.”

Nicely shared a story of when he and some friends were hiking about 25 years ago during a heavy snowfall and he saw Clabo hiking by himself. “And let me tell you what, for the next two or three hours I got an education, a fascinating education,” Nicely said.

Hiking that day, Nicely discovered that Clabo grew up in the same area as Nicely’s grandmother, and knew her growing up. He said that this particular memory of Clabo stands out to him.

“Everybody in this room has probably got a story about Herb,” Nicely said.

jold@themountainpress.com