By Sara Bondell
Arthur Kropp has led an extraordinary life.
He enlisted in the United States Navy in 1942 when he was 18 years old. Just two years later, he was flying a torpedo-bomber during one of the fiercest battles in World War II, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, where he helped sink Japanese Battleship Musashi.
During another battle in the war, his fighter plane went down. He and two others were listed as missing in action and survived on a life raft until they were rescued several days later. He has earned numerous medals for his heroism, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, Navy Air Medal and Presidential Unit Citation.
It’s no surprise that when Kropp was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer at 91, he was ready to fight. He needed a complicated surgery to survive, but multiple doctors turned him away. “Two or three doctors said, ‘No, it’s too dangerous because you’re too old for this,’ ” said Kropp.
Kropp then found Moffitt Cancer Center and gastrointestinal surgeon Pamela Hodul, who had a different view. “Age is just a number,” said Hodul. “Arthur was 91 going on 70. He was very active, dancing on the weekends with his wife. He had his wits about him and was very positive.”
Kropp also has genetics on his side. His mother lived until 104, and he has set the goal to outlive her. Taking everything into consideration, not just his age, Hodul agreed to perform the surgery.
Kropp recovered well and five years later is enjoying life in Spring Hill with his wife, Glenna Jo. He is about to celebrate his 96th birthday — further proof that the date on your birth certificate doesn’t always dictate your physical health.