With a smile on her face and joy in her heart, Loise Culp Hogan, the oldest veteran at the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Gulfport, turned 103 surrounded by family and friends.
“I’ve had a wonderful life,” Hogan said. “It’s been a really great ride”
And she’s not just saying that—her life really has been extraordinary. As a member of the “Greatest Generation,” she was a wartime cryptologist for the US Navy, married a war hero, and raised four children. She even rode out Hurricane Katrina. She added her longevity secret is to just be happy, “And to live right you have to do the right things, eat the right food, and take the right exercise.”
Hogan was born on Feb. 5, 1920, and was the tenth in a line of 11 children in a family of farmers in the rural Ebenezer community in the northwest corner of Tennessee. They raised corn, sweet potatoes, and beans, and kept chickens, pigs, and cows, and enjoyed occasional trips to Reelfoot Lake for picnics, swimming, or nearby barn dances.
A well-to-do aunt provided the family with parcels of beautiful clothes, which Hogan deconstructed and then crafted into clothes for all the children. The girls learned to sew, made their own patterns, and gained an appreciation for clothing design.
After high school, she was working at a shirt factory and in 1938 when she was introduced to her future husband, Reed Hogan, who was on leave from the U.S. Navy and getting ready to ship out on the USS Texas. She immediately noticed how handsome he was and on their first date, they went to a movie and then afterward sat on a front porch swing and talked for hours.
As World War II intensified, she decided to join the Navy herself with plans to be a wartime photographer. During the intake process, her exceptional math skills were discovered, and the Navy decided that they needed her in a different role—decoding enemy messages for Naval Intelligence.
After basic training, she was assigned to the WAVE Quarters D in Washington, D.C., and in an underground facility, she worked decoding enemy messages that provided clues to our military regarding the best use of resources.
In 1944, Reed Hogan was wounded, received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, and was sent stateside. Soon after, they were married by a justice of the peace in Arlington. Sadly, her husband died of a massive heart attack in 1964, and she raised four children as a single mother.
She moved into the Armed Forces Retirement Home in 1994 and even rode out Hurricane Katrina in that building in 2005 with her close friends and the staff. Indicative of her adventuresome spirit, her rationality was, “I’ve never seen a hurricane before.”
The waters rose 30 feet to the building’s third floor and they were rescued by Seabees after the storm surge receded. Ultimately, they were relocated to a sister facility in Washington, D.C. until the retirement home was rebuilt in Gulfport. After they were rescued she said, “Next time, I’ll evacuate.”
She has seven grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, is in good health, has all her mental faculties — and can recite the ABCs forward and backward.