COLUMBIA – From ear to ear, it’s hard to miss the smile of 94-year-old Elmo Winterhalter.
“I don’t know, I’ve always been like this since I was a kid,” he said of his positive attitude.
You’ll find him greeting customers with his signature smile on Mondays and Fridays at Oakland Plaza Car Wash in Vandiver, Colombia.
“He’s still there. He’s still smiling,” said Joe Wood, owner of Oakland Plaza Car Wash. “No matter what a bad day I have, anyone. Mo comes in with the same smile day in and day out.”
You could say Elmo is just tickled to be alive.
“I just thank the good Lord for keeping me around,” he said with a laugh.
Known as Mo, he has lived in Boone County for nine decades. He was born in 1925. He lived through the Great Depression, 16 different presidencies and served in World War II.
“I was a gunner in the artillery. I shot everything from 75 to 240,” he said.
In 1943, Mo went to Belgium with the army. He was 18 years old.
“There are a lot of things that I like to forget. I don’t like to talk about it,” he said. “I was nervous as a June bug when I got home.”
Even then, while serving in the war, Mo was smiling.
“There was this newspaper with an article on this guy they called ‘Smilin’ Jack ‘and he was still smiling and some of my buddies just started calling me’ Smilin ‘Jack’,” he said. .
It’s not just what Mo has done in his life, it’s what he still does.
He’s still working. He retired after 30 years with the Boone County Street Division to find a new job at the car wash. This year marks year number 25 there.
“I sit alone in the house staring at four walls and it gets lonely. I can come here and meet people and talk to them,” Mo said.
“When Mo was young it was part of life, he went to work every day and there was no excuse and he’s not about to let his age be a part of it,” Wood said.
He also always lives alone, drives and serves his neighbors.
“It smashes my driveway in the winter,” said one of Mo’s neighbors, Daryl Isgrig. “He takes care of the neighborhood. He takes care of everyone on this road. He always has and probably always will.”
He is always there for his family.
“He enjoys doing whatever I do,” said Mo’s son Randy Winterhalter. “There’s never a bad day, he doesn’t seem or at least he doesn’t tell us if he’s doing it anyway.”
Even after losing his wife ten years ago and one of his two sons two years ago, he still smiles from the pain.
“I have all of these pictures, I can look at them and think about all the good times we had… just grit your teeth and get naked and go on,” Mo said. “I guess I prefer it better. be happy than sad. “
If smiling hurts your face, then Mo’s must be quite painful.
“She’s the happiest person in Boone County,” Mo’s daughter-in-law Peggy-Sue Winterhalter said. “He might be the happiest person in Missouri.”
“I’m glad someone loves me,” Mo said with a smile and a laugh.
Mo has four grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He was married to his wife, Wanda, for 56 years. After 94 he said his advice would be to do as you are told and like his dad told him, do it right.