HONOLULU (KHON2) — John Gleeson recently went to a party that was unlike any he’d ever been to. What made it more special? It was in his honor.

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“My dentist came. He closed his office to come to this party. And I thought that was pretty special,” said centenarian John Gleeson.

And it was. The party at Gleeson’s assisted living care facility in Liliha celebrated his 100th birthday.

An undated photo of John Gleeson on his 100th birthday in Honolulu, Hawaii.
An undated photo of John Gleeson on his 100th birthday in Honolulu, Hawaii.

“Same way I felt as 60, no different except I noticed myself not as accurate in my thinking, but not bad,” said Gleeson.

One thing that hasn’t changed, is his love for flying and the feeling it gives him.

“Free. It’s a different feeling that you’ve gotten control of your life. You either do it right or you’re going to get bad results,” said Gleeson.

So it was fitting that he spent his 100th birthday, doing what he loves. He mostly flies gliders, but it hasn’t always been that way.

Gleeson began flying in the military. He joined the U.S. Army Air Corps when he was 18. He flew combat and covert missions and says he was shot at many times, but never hit. Gleeson has logged many miles across the world, with Switzerland being the most magical.

“I was looking up the mountain I could see little farms and cows and munching on the grass and I’m flying at 10,000 feet,” Gleeson recalled.

Gleeson has mentored many, and been involved with numerous groups including the Hawaii wing Civil Air Patrol and the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, which he serves as a founding board member. His passion and knowledge are extensive, even pointing out the aircraft that flew overhead during our interview.

“That’s an F-22 raptor, 400 plus miles per hour straight up,” said Gleeson.

But as much as Gleeson loves aviation and all the memories attached to it, there’s one moment in his long life that stands out above all the rest.

“Meeting my wife,” said Gleeson. “I met my wife on a blind date.”

His wife Barbara never flew with him. They were married for nearly 75 years before she passed away. They had three daughters together. Gleeson misses his wife but vows to continue flying for as long as he can. He encourages other kupuna to keep moving forward as well.

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“Get motivated. Do something,” Gleeson said. “As long as you can do something, do something.”