For 100 years, Martin Karandy’s seen the world change before his own eyes.
Even he can scarcely believe how much.
“I can’t fathom it at all,” Karandy, who celebrates his 100th birthday Sunday, said in a phone interview on Saturday. “It’s so amazing, just the cellphones and the way of communicating and the things that you can do. It’s way beyond me.”
On April 12, 1920, Karandy was born in Schenectady as one of 13 children to parents Ludwick and Stephanie Karandy, who had immigrated to the United States from Poland.
The World War II veteran spent the two days prior to his 100th birthday at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr Hospital after being diagnosed with symptoms of a transient ischemic attack, but in good spirits and hopeful of returning home Sunday to celebrate his milestone.
“Hopefully I get released,” Karandy said. “They’re checking the tests and they’ll let me know.”
His daughter, Emely J. Karandy, said her father wasn’t one for big parties. When she told him she’d planned on a big celebration for his 100th, he requested something much smaller.
“He didn’t want a party,” said Emely Karandy, who grew up in Schenectady and Clifton Park. “I was going to make kind of a big party, and he got wind of it and said he just wanted immediate family and a dinner. My kids were all going to fly in.”
The COVID-19 pandemic made even that impossible. Of his four grandchildren, one lives in Seattle and one in Boston, with the other two close by in Philadelphia.
Despite the circumstances, father and daughter were able to share good-natured jokes about the situation.
“We said it’s all his fault,” Emely Karandy joked. “Just because he didn’t want a birthday party.”
A child of the Great Depression and a graduate of Mont Pleasant High School, Karandy served as a machine gunner in the U.S. Army during World War II.
“I volunteered, really,” he said, “and I ended up in combat in Europe.”
He’d wanted to serve in the Air Force, his daughter said, but was disqualified due to his vision. As a soldieer in Gen. George Patton’s Third Army, he was among the first in the world to hear the news that the war in Europe had ended.
He returned home and attended Siena College at night through the GI Bill, graduating in 1952 and working at the Watervliet Arsenal until 1984.
After the death of his wife, Emely Bottieri Karandy, Martin Karandy moved to the Philadelphia area in 1996 to be closer to his daughter and four grandchildren.
But, he never lost his connection to his home.
“His heart,” his daughter said, “remained in Schenectady.”
The stories were constant, she said, about his memories of walking along the railroad tracks or visiting Central Park.
“He moved down here to be with us,” she said, “but he’s a Capital District guy at heart.”
He remains an avid fan of watching golf on TV and reads the Wall Street Journal every day, to “keep up on the news as best as I can.”
He’s also a keen Facebook user, and his profile already has many well-wishes for his centenary birthday.
If he can be back at his home at a Haverford, Pennsylvania nursing home, there are plans for a family celebration Sunday via Zoom conference.
Even as he hits 100, Emely J. Karandy said, her father’s still pretty handy when it comes to picking up new technology.
“If we let him figure it out on his own,” she said, “he’s better than if we try to teach it to him.”
He’s also still plenty sharp, as evidenced in the last few days when he was hospitalized and his daughter wanted to make sure he had her cellphone number written down.
“When I talked to him today, I said, ‘Did you write it down?’ He said, ‘No, but I memorized it,’ and he read it right back to me,” she said. “Can’t argue with that.”
There were some health scares over the years, most prominently a bout with heart disease in his 60s that required bypass surgery, but Emely Karandy said she’s extremely grateful her father’s been able to live this life he has.
“It wasn’t ever his aspiration to live to be 100 years old,” she said. “I think he’s as surprised as anyone.”
Turns out, there is none.
“I did everything everybody else does,” Martin Karandy said. “It’s just lucky to come up with the right genes.”
Reach Adam Shinder at [email protected] or @Adam_Shinder on Twitter.