La Jolla resident and World War II vet Milton Kodmur revels in nearly a century of recreational joys

Milton Kodmur, a La Jolla resident for more than 60 years, turns 99 on Feb. 28.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

La Jolla Centenarians:

For Milton Kodmur, not having a childhood dream come true might be part of the reason he has lived nearly a century. That, and maintaining an active lifestyle.

The La Jolla resident of more than 60 years will celebrate his 99th birthday Feb. 28.

Growing up, Kodmur wanted to be pilot. But his concerned parents wouldn’t sign him up for lessons before he turned 18, so that dream was grounded. Nevertheless, he studied mechanical engineering with the hope of working in aviation.

And he did — in World War II. With his engineering experience, he was part of a burgeoning photo reconnaissance squadron and helped modify planes that were used to take photos.

However, the war ended as the squadron was still getting organized.

“I liken my military experience to a horse that’s been trained to participate in races,” Kodmur said. “And then when the big race comes up and he’s at the starting line, he’s pulled from the race.”

But maybe, he joked, “why I’m here today is because I never became a pilot or faced a battle.”

But he still has his share of war stories. For example, while stationed on an island in the South China Sea with Japanese soldiers nearby, the pilots of his squadron would do flyovers and see who was shot at the most. “They would compare rifle holes when they landed,” Kodmur said with a laugh.

“The secret to my longevity is the good care of my wife, and I think being next to the university here has been helpful.”

— Milton Kodmur

When he was able to go back to college, he finished his degree. Having taken all the available engineering classes at UCLA, he moved to UC Berkeley so he could take more.

Kodmur entered the workforce, marketing refrigerators and air conditioning units in Northern California. During what he calls his “bachelor life,” he was an avid hunter and fisherman, played polo and was a devotee of Dixieland jazz. He also frequented dinner parties and other social gatherings where the hosts would try to fix him up with a woman, to no success.

But all that changed when he met his wife-to-be, Edith, at a party. The two wed and moved into a house that Kodmur had built in the Bay Area. Kodmur hunted and fished for food, saying he never killed something he wouldn’t eat.

The Kodmur family — including daughter Julie Ann and son David — moved to La Jolla in 1962. Once settled, Kodmur served as president of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers and was a founding member of a cooking club called The Men from SPECIAL (Society for the Preservation of Epicurean Cuisine Including Alcoholic Libations). He still attends lectures at UC San Diego.

“The secret to my longevity is the good care of my wife, and I think being next to the university here has been helpful” in keeping him sharp, he said.

Edith said her husband always has been active. “He went to the gym before it was popular,” she said. He also participated in martial arts during his younger years.

“The only thing I discovered too late to really get into was aikido,” Kodmur said. “But I did a little of that.”

To fuel his creative side, Kodmur carves small wooden sculptures often inspired by Native American kachinas. The Kodmur home also is filled with books on arts and culture.

La Jolla Centenarians is an occasional series in the La Jolla Light. If you know a La Jollan who is or close to at least 100 years old, email