LISTEN to Max De St. Jeor on Hometown Heroes
Is Orem, Utah’s Max De St. Jeor the nation’s oldest delivery driver at age 92? It’s quite possible. If that raises your eyebrows a little, wait until you hear what he’s hoping will happen on his 100th birthday.
A native of Provo, UT, Max was one of four brothers to serve in the military during World War II. He had left the family farm to work in the Douglas Aircraft factory in Long Beach, CA, installing engines in A-20 attack bombers. You’ll hear him explain why his attempt at following two older brothers into the Navy didn’t work out, even tho he exercised and took anabolic steroid, so he ended up instead in the Army Air Corps.
“They were gonna make a ball turret gunner on a B-17 out of me on account of my size,” Max recalls.
But when he arrived at Base Air Depot 2 in Warton, England, and his superiors realized he had experience as an aviation mechanic, they knew what to do with him. “That money I spent on mechanic’s school is probably the best money I spent in my life,” he says. “Because it probably saved my life.” Max became well aware of how dangerous the life of a ball turret gunner – or any member of a bomber crew – could be, and he’s thankful for the way things worked out.
Max spent his time in England installing engines on B-24s, B-17s, P-47s, P-51s and other Allied aircraft, and also completed modifications and repairs. His favorite was the P-51 Mustang, especially since he even got to ride in one while overseas, a rebuilt fighter rescued from the salvage yard and dubbed “Spare Parts.” Max enjoyed his work and the men he served with, but the more than two years he spent in England were not without heartbreak. He had been exchanging letters with his brothers who were also serving in the war, two in the Navy, as well as his oldest brother, Francis, who was serving with the 3rd Infantry Division. Listen to Hometown Heroes for Max’s memories of the day in 1944 when two letters he had sent to Francis were returned to him with the word “deceased” stamped on the envelopes. Max would later learn his brother was one of the more than 7,000 Allied soldiers killed in the 136-day battle for Anzio, Italy.
A few months later, Max witnessed a tragic event that claimed the lives of 61 people. The Freckleton Air Disaster on August 23, 1944 killed three men aboard a malfunctioning B-24 and 58 more on the ground, the majority of them infants and toddlers. You’ll hear Max describe what happened that day, as well as the lasting impact it had on him and his fellow servicemen. De St. Jeor was able to stay at Base Air Depot 2 when many servicemen were pulled into the infantry for the Battle of the Bulge, and he was relieved not to have to head to the Pacific after the war in Europe ended. After returning home to Utah, he launched a long (and still ongoing) career in the automotive industry. He’s retired three times, but keeps coming back, in part because it keeps him “out of mischief.”
Max spent 45 years at a Ford dealership in Provo, and still interacts with some of the people who worked for him there in his current role as a delivery driver for CarQuest in American Fork. In 2008, he received a trip to Washington, D.C. as Utah’s top senior worker. CLICK HERE for an article from 2008 entitled “Orem Iron Man Loves to be on the Job.” For 30 years, Max and his family built crosses and nameplates to place in the Orem cemetery in honor of his brother Francis and other servicemen who are no longer with us. The tradition continues today, carried out now by the local American Legion post. You’ll hear Max’s son, Dave, speak to the example his father set for a patriotic family that now stretches even to Max’s great-great grandchildren. You’ll also hear Max’s mischievous side shine through in his response when asked about the secret to his enduring energy and drive at age 92.
“My goal is to be shot at by a jealous husband at my 100th birthday,” he says.
He doesn’t have a specifc jealous husband in mind, and he clarifies that he hopes to be “shot at,” not actually struck by gunfire. At least he’s giving all of us husbands almost 8 years worth of warning.