“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Andrew Leone said.

“I don’t know what the big deal is,” Andrew Leone said.

Outside, the shimmering, dancing waves of Lake Tapawingo reflect the late-August light. Inside his home, the one he and his wife moved to in November 1948, Andrew sits quietly and lets the light pierce through stained-glass fixtures, illuminate the religious symbols on walls and tables and warm his nearly unblemished skin.

“No, I … I don’t know if I ever did anything special,” he said, answering the question.

Andrew’s daughter, Joan Niemeyer, lifts her foot and moves her fingers that are meshed together like stems of tall grass.

“He’s a walking miracle,” she said, adding: “God, my mother, his doctor … they’ve had a big part in his life.”

Across from her, Andrew nods his head. Then he starts talking, stories spilling from his mouth like a waterfall. He talks about his life. He talks about his wife of 70 years, Frances, who died shortly before they could celebrate their 71st year together. He talks about Model-Ts and the absence of road-rage. He talks about getting married at 19, about loving ROTC when he was in school. He talks about cranking his telephone in the middle of the night. He talks about the corner of U.S. 40 and Missouri 7 when there was nothing but a service station.

He talks about the Weedeater in his kitchen.

“I still fiddle around with my lawnmowers, drive to do my errands, cook, clean.” He paused. “I do my laundry.”

On Oct. 6, Andrew will celebrate his 100th birthday. He honestly doesn’t see it as a big deal – and perhaps it isn’t. Many people reach 100, after all, but how many still live a relatively independent and active life? How many can boast of few health issues the way Andrew can? How many can boast of having great eyesight? How many can say they can, upon the entrance of a visitor, stand up quickly, cross the living room and shake the person’s hand with impressive firmness?

How many can recite names, dates, places without hesitation?

“I don’t brag about my age,” he said.

Born in North Kansas City, Andrew did not expect to live this long. His parents both died before they reached 80, and as far as he knows, longevity isn’t his birthright.

He was born on Oct. 6, 1910. He went to school. He went to church. He did the best he could. In 1945, he became a mechanic for TWA, but while he was a mechanic, he was also the fire chief for the Blue Springs Volunteer Fire Department.

“No one else wanted the job, so I figured what the heck?” he said following with a strong laugh.

He and Frances raised their family – daughter Joan, now 80, and son Michael, who passed away in 2008.

While working as a mechanic, he also owned and operated a tailor shop in what was back then a smaller Blue Springs. At Lake Tapawingo, the community was even smaller – but the people who gathered close to the water to make their lives were close, they knew each other, took care of one another.

As the year’s went by, the number of Andrew’s immediate family who moved to the lake grew. Joan, for instance, lives down the street. At one time, aunts and uncles lived in close proximity, but time has a way of taking away as it goes. Close family soon was replaced by close friends, some of whom depended on Andrew for errands and check-ups.

Andrew retired in 1974. The decision is often a kind of prison sentence, an admittance of exhaustion, of a desire and need to point the lawn chair toward the setting sun and not where it rises in the east.

“But I kept busy, I was always busy. That might have been part of it.”

Through the years he’s learned and practiced many activities: stained glass serves as the best example of his tenacity and the will to learn new things – keep interested, keep busy, keep vital. He had no idea how to make it when he picked up a book following his wife’s urging. He then made a lamp, a parrot.

“He keeps busy,” Joan said.

While no longer a member, he was once active in Rotary and Lions, but he’s since stepped back. Surprisingly, he views his life as once crowded with too many activities.

“I got to the point where it was like, well, what the heck am I doing?”

But he didn’t stop. Puttering around the house, he fixed things for both himself and for others. Family help with the major projects. He has a large pool of support to choose from: grandchildren, all from Joan, and six great-grandchildren, the oldest, Christopher, who is 24.

His granddaughter, Kim Fletcher, said the family helps where they can, where they must.

“We won’t let him do the gutters,” she said, laughing.

“But we have to do those kinds of things quick because he’ll try first,” Joan said. “We have to beat him to it.”

His birthday celebration, when it comes in early October, will be full of surprises, Joan said. She’s not telling and Andrew isn’t asking.

“I’ve had a lot of birthdays, I really don’t know what the big deal is,” he said again. “But I am grateful for my life. There’s nothing I want to do because I’ve done so much.”

Joan moves her hands again and takes a long look at her father.

“It’s time someone else does something for you.”