Louis “Russ” Frogner will likely celebrate his 99th birthday today with a big helping of shredded wheat — after all, that’s the key to his longevity.
“I eat a lot of shredded wheat,” he chuckled.
The born-and-raised Adna resident knows what he likes, and it’s gotten him this far.
“Every single day of his life he has shredded wheat and macaroni and cheese,” said Joyce Frogner, his wife. “Anything else is just superfluous.”
Of course, Russ knows more about life than just shredded wheat. And the blazing forecast for his birthday on Tuesday fits in well with another of his life mottos.
“If you get a chance to sit out in the sun, it’s good for you,” he said. “I look at it this way, if it’s good for the plants, it’s good for you. It never gets too hot for me. I like the warm weather.”
Russ was born in Adna in 1920, and he has fond memories of his childhood in Southwest Washington.
“I was earning money to pick strawberries,” he said. “I made $5 and bought a bicycle.”
He also remembered spending time with his friends and swimming in the river “every day” — much like his shredded wheat habit today.
After he graduated from high school in 1938, Russ spent some time driving the school bus before joining the Navy the following year. When World War II began, he was sent to the Pacific Theater, where he helped operate a landing craft during the invasion of Okinawa. During his time in the service, he became proficient on diesel engines — “I worked my way up,” he said.
His service didn’t end with World War II. Russ spent 22 years in the military, about half in the regular Navy and half with the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees. He spent time in many parts of the world, and he still counts New Zealand as his favorite place.
In 1949, he met Joyce in Salt Lake City. Both were just passing through, but obviously something clicked, as they’re still together nearly 70 years later.
“She’s the joy of my life, a wonderful wife,” Russ said.
Russ has six children, several of whom live nearby: Luana Graves, Daryl Ayers, Leslie Frogner, Gary Frogner, Chris Frogner and Cheryl Sabin.
In 1960, Russ and Joyce moved back to Adna, where they still live on a street named after Russ’s father. He set to work on the rural property, trimming trees, maintaining views and devoting as much time outside as he could. That hard work on the land was a trait he passed down to his children.
“We worked a lot here on the property,” said Sabin. “He would work every day.”
The move back to Southwest Washington, the rural lifestyle — and the fact that several of the Frogners’ children live nearby — have made the past 60 years a joy, said Joyce.
“I’ve loved every minute I’ve been here,” she said.
The couple took regular vacations to Cannon Beach, and Russ always stayed active, even climbing a tree to trim it at age 90. One of Russ’s children went on to have a military career of his own, a fact he recounts with pride.
“If I was with him in the military, I’d be working for him, because he had a higher rating than I do,” he said.
Russ doesn’t have big plans for his birthday, but spending time with his family will give him plenty to celebrate. And he’s hoping the weather cooperates.
“What I look forward to is sitting out in the sun,” he said.