A century of memories: Two Destin residents have milestone birthdays this month

Jennie McKeon
Emma "Kirk" Moyer, left, sporting her favorite color, purple. Crystal Bay celebrated Moyer and Fiore's milestone birthdays with a cake a balloons during happy hour last week. Benedict "Ben" Fiore, right, credits his active lifestyle to his longevity. He continues to work out regularly and even taught exercise classes well into his 80s

1914 was the year in which World War I began, Henry Ford introduced the assembly line for his Model T automobile, Charlie Chaplin debuted his famous character "The Tramp" and the U.S. Congress established Mother's Day, which President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed.

It was also the year that two Crystal Bay residents were born.

This month, Kirk Moyer and Ben Fiore will celebrate their 100th birthday. To celebrate, The Log sat down with them to take a trip down memory lane and share their secrets to a long, happy life.

Ben Fiore: 'A powerful inspiration'

Benedict "Ben" Fiore has packed so many experiences in his century on Earth, and he's still not done.

Born in New Jersey, Fiore attended Rutgers University and graduated, class of 1939, with a degree in education. When he enlisted in World War II — "it seemed like the right thing to do," he said — he got to combine his love of teaching and athletics by instructing calisthenics to the troops. He was stationed in France for about 13 months. When he returned to the states he took a job as director of recreation for the VA in Massachusetts.

After an early retirement, Fiore moved to Stuart, Fla., where he led exercise classes well into his 80s through Elderhostel, a non-profit organization that offers education and travel programs to senior citizens. He was also a regular volunteer for the Red Cross and Jesus House of Hope. Staying active, Fiore said, is important to maintaining your health.

He loved learning as much as he loved teaching and took any opportunity he could to travel, including spending three months in Spain as a tour guide. Even in his 90s, he traveled alone to Italy, where his parents were born and where he spent part of his childhood.

"I enjoy seeing new lands and meeting new people," he said.

Fiore moved in to Crystal Bay a year ago to be closer to his son Bob, who lives in Destin. He enjoys visiting with his family, he has three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. He still enjoys exercising and still has his poker face intact, winning games amongst family and friends.

Through his years as a husband, father and grandfather, Fiore has been a guide for his family, they said.

"He was very devoted to his wife, Eileen for 45 years and continued to be devoted to his children and grandchildren, leading them by example," said his daughter-in-law Diane. "He's been a powerful inspiration."

Emma "Kirk" Moyer: The caregiver

From nursing soldiers to raising her daughter to welcoming new Crystal Bay residents, Emma "Kirk" Moyer has dedicated her life to taking care of others.

Moyer was born in Georgia, but grew up in Anniston, Ala., where she spent most of her life. After graduating high school, she signed up for nursing school behind her parents’ back.

"They didn't want me to go, but they ended up supporting me," Moyer recalled. "My dad even took me to the store to buy white shoes."

It was during nursing school that she was given the name Kirk, her last name from her first marriage.

Moyer nursed soldiers at the Anniston Army Base during World War II. She first heard about the attacks on Pearl Harbor while on duty at the base.

"That's something you don't forget," she said. "Like when Kennedy was assassinated. I had just come home for lunch and turned on the television to see the news."

 Even after she gave up her job, she never quit nursing. In 2003, at the age of 89, Moyer brought her nursing skills on a missionary trip to Honduras.

"I've always liked to take care of people," she said.

Moyer continues to care for others today. She serves as an ambassador at Crystal Bay — the first ever — welcoming new residents and showing them the ropes.

"I like meeting new people and seeing where they're from," she said.

At Crystal Bay, Moyer enjoys reading, cheering on Auburn University and playing Wii Bowling. She recently made news around campus after getting nine strikes in a row.

In the past 100 years, Moyer has been present for major moments in history.

"The first radio, the first television — I even saw a man walk on the moon," she said.

During the Great Depression, Moyer recalls families having to pay for their child's schooling since the state couldn't handle the cost. Out of eight children, Moyer's parents were forced to choose one child to pay for and that was Kirk.

Even though Moyer only had one child — Dianne Pope, who lives part-time in Destin — she is blessed to have a family of 23.

As far as living to 100 and staying healthy and sharp, Moyer gave the simple answer: eat well and exercise. Perhaps she's keeping her secrets to herself.

"I don't know, it just happened," she said.

Moyer will celebrate her milestone birthday in grand fashion.

"Oh yea, we have big plans," she said. "We'll have two parties. One at the Sandestin Beach Club. We invited everybody."