By Ashley Mackin
Les Stypinski, who celebrated his 100th birthday on Aug. 1 at Vi in La Jolla Village, said he has a solid prescription for longevity: Have a good outlook on life.
“If you have a good outlook, you are bound to live long because you don’t worry,” he said. “A good outlook on life is key.” Living proof of his theory, he constantly makes jokes, maintains a fulfilling social life and puts a positive spin on his memories.
“I’m not so much celebrating my 100th birthday as I’m marking the first year of my next century,” he said.
For his “next century,” Stypinski said he wants to see people communicate better. He said the world would benefit from a non-religiously based universal code of ethics — some rules we could all agree to — the establishment of which would start a better line of communication and facilitate the understanding of one another’s cultures.
Turning 100 was also a personal goal for Stypinski, who said he wanted to outlive his only brother, Andrew, who died at age 99.
Stypinski was born in Krakow, Poland on a small farm. He said he had to be creative and build things to entertain himself, given there was little to do and no modern technology. He carried that creativity and his engineering abilities to the military as an adult.
While in the British Air Force, he worked on submarines, guided missiles and helicopters in preparation for World War II. However, of the many possible memories of that time, the one he cherishes most, he said, was when he met his wife.
While stationed in England in 1941, he attended a St. Patrick’s Day dance. While dancing with a woman, Peggy Maugham, (deceased in 1971) walked up to him and tapped him on the shoulder, hoping to cut in. A friendship developed, and the two were married in 1942. Their son, Tony, was born five years later.
When the war ended, Stypinski said it was hard to buy a house in London, where he was stationed. So he sent out applications for engineering work in Canada, Australia, South Africa and India. All the places he applied to accepted him, but the Stypinskis decided to move to Canada because Peggy had family there.
He began work for the Montreal base of General Atomics, where he was the head of the experimental engineering department for 10 years. In 1960, he got an invitation to work at the General Atomics division in La Jolla.
While working in La Jolla, Stypinski also wanted to develop a social life, so he joined the La Jolla Cove Bridge Club and the Soledad Mountain Bridge Club. He also partook in what he calls “the usual” — dancing, cocktail parties and traveling. He observed that when he and his family moved to La Jolla, there was little development. Now, looking out the window of his home at Vi, he sees the multi-story towers all around him.
“I was brought up on a farm and never lived in a very busy place, so I prefer a less hustled, quieter life,” he said, noting that La Jolla has developed around him. “In La Jolla, there is too much rushing around; people would benefit from slowing down He observed that when he and his family moved to La Jolla, there was little development. Now, looking out the window of his home at Vi, he sees the multi-story towers all around him.
“I was brought up on a farm and never lived in a very busy place, so I prefer a less hustled, quieter life,” he said, noting that La Jolla has developed around him. “In La Jolla, there is too much rushing around; people would benefit from slowing down ... which brings me back to, again, your outlook on life. I’ve been relaxed, and here I am, 100 years old, dressed and ready for a party.”
His son and daughter-in- law, Gloria, drove down from Los Angeles to attend the 100th birthday gala held for him on July 31 at Vi. His only grandchild, Tyler, couldn’t make it. At the party, residents gathered for appetizers, music and to hear toasts honoring — and from — the birthday boy.
Son Tony opened the celebration by reading a note sent by President Barack and Michelle Obama congratulating Stypinski on all his achievements over the last 100 years and applauding his longevity.
Tony teased, “I’ve been so lucky to have this man for a father ... though his longevity has given my wife cause for concern.”
One resident commented that Stypinski is so handsome now; she couldn’t even imagine how handsome he must have been when he was younger.
Thanking his friends and fellow residents, Stypinski said, “On a scale of one to 10, I give you all a 100.”
As part of La Jolla Light’s 100th publishing anniversary this year, we are featuring interviews with fellow centenarians throughout 2013. If you know a La Jollan who is 100 years old, please e-mail email@example.com or call (858) 875-5950.