After the atom bombs were dropped on Japan during World War II, Paul Larsen flew photographers over Hiroshima and Nagasaki to capture the devastation on film.
“The cities were pulverized,” he said.
This 96-year-old Islander spent the war as an Air Corps member piloting PBY planes carrying out air-sea rescue missions throughout the Pacific.
“It was go, go, go all the time,” he remembered, adding, “We’d cover all the way from the Philippines to Korea with all the different islands in between.”
“When available, we’d call on the submarines to pick up persons when needed,” he said.
This Midway Road resident joined the air corps with his twin brother, who flew B-17s, after his second year at Tusculum College in Tennessee.
Paul’s family acquired property on Menantic Creek in the 1930s. After the war Paul and his brothers bought a kit house from JC Penney. They put it together with help from local contractor Charlie Manwaring, Paul said. Paul eventually built a house on adjoining property. That’s where he lives now. One of his daughters summers in the original kit house. His daughter Linda lives here year round.
I spoke with Paul while he was using one of the exercise machines at the Island FIT Center attached to the school. This was my first visit to this center that is available to Islanders for a very nominal fee. It was pretty packed when I was there last week at 9 a.m. His primary machine is a recumbent stepper. He also uses a stepper and ankle weights when doing leg extensions.
Paul’s daughter, Linda McCarthy, brings him to the center three days a week. She also exercises on the machines.
When I asked Paul what the secret to his longevity is, he said, “I always keep moving.”
He said that he always enjoyed boating with his cabin cruiser, traveling the waters around the Island fishing. He gave up his boat, he said, as “I don’t have the patience for fishing anymore.”
Paul was married for 63 years to his wife, Doris. She died two years ago, he said. He has four grandchildren and they’re all in college now. Of his three children, Linda lives on Shelter Island, “And she checks on me two or three times a day.”
Paul is pretty much confined to his house. He enjoys watching life on the creek and has Meals on Wheels deliver food to him three days per week. He says he’ll make other frozen meals in the microwave. He still has a driver’s license but does not drive anymore.