Brothers reunite in Veneta on eve of elder's 100th birthday: 'Humbling to be with him'
VENETA, Ore. - Brothers John and Charles Estano haven't visited face-to-face in nearly 30 years.
Charles came out to Oregon from New Hampshire for John's birthday: He turns 100 on Saturday.
Family members have poured in from far and wide to celebrate a life well lived.
"It's humbling to be with him," Charles said.
At 93, Charles - Chuck for short - is John's only surviving brother.
The boys grew up in south Boston, 15 siblings in all.
"When we all grew up, we didn't have two nickles but neither did our neighbors," Chuck said. "But we didn't know that."
Eight of the nine Estano brothers served their country in war: Six in World War II, two in Vietnam.
They all came home alive.
What are the odds of having 8 siblings in the military during wartime and they all survive?
"I tell people that," Chuck's son Neal said, "and they say, 'No way'."
John became one of the top Navy reconnaissance photographers in the Pacific during the war.
"They made me a chief photographer right off," he recalled. "I was just an enlisted man. I insisted on it."
After the war, he owned and operated a photography studio for decades in Ontario, Oregon, with his beloved better half, Betty Lou.
So what is his secret to a long life?
"That wonderful woman, my wife and I together," he said. "We helped each other."
The milestone birthday is a delight for little brother Chuck, too. "Not only pleased because he made 100," he said, "but because I remember so much about how much fun we had."
"He always said it was his attitude that would get him to 100," John's daughter DeAnn Cherbas said, "and that he was going to live to be 100."
"I'm gonna live to 105," John said.
"You didn't tell me that," his brother Chuck replied. "That's my goal!"