Swanton Navy Veteran Celebrates 100th Birthday


Living to the age of 100 is a remarkable feat enjoyed by less than half of a percent of Americans.  Serving your country in three separate wars and still reaching that rare milestone can only be described as miraculous. 

With that being said, today, September 19, 2022, is the 100th birthday of United States Navy veteran of 31 years and Swanton resident Billy Chinnis who served America during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  Billy’s birthday was celebrated this past Saturday at the Swanton American Legion Murbach-Siefert Post #479 and attended by family, friends, fellow veterans, local television stations and currently serving Navy personnel.

Swanton Mayor Neil Toeppe read a proclamation honoring Billy at the event, one he had read during the Village Council meeting the Monday before.

It read:  On September 19, 1922 Billy R. Chinnis was born in Holland, Ohio then graduated from Holland High School in 1940.  Upon graduation he joined the Navy in 1942 and spent most of his career at sea and served during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.  He travelled the world including India, China and Italy.  His last two vessels were the USS Toledo and the USS Oklahoma City.

Billy met his wife, Theresa, a U.S. Marine in San Diego in 1952.  It was love at first sight.  They married shortly thereafter and had three children, two sons and a daughter.  They were married for 69 years.  Billy retired from the Navy as a Boatswain’s Mate First Class in 1973.  The family moved to Swanton in 1986 where he still resides. 

The Village of Swanton wishes to honor Billy Chinnis on the occasion of his 100th birthday for his service to our country and the Swanton area by his example, and the indelible impact on the community and its citizens, and the quality of life we enjoy.

On behalf of the Village Council and the People of the Village of Swanton, I, Neil Toeppe, Mayor of Swanton, do hereby honor Mr. Billy Chinnis for his exemplary life well lived and wish him many more.

Also in attendance was Chief Petty Officer (CPO) James Reese who delivered a letter honoring Billy from Admiral Michael M. Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations, the highest-ranking military member of the U.S. Navy. 

Admiral Gilday wrote, in part: “Dear Mr. Chinnis, on behalf of more than 600,000 sailors and Navy civilians, I want to send my very best to you on the occasion of your 100th birthday.  We are grateful for your service in our Navy during World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  The legacy your generation set is an example for sailors of today to follow.  I know your years in the Navy were an inspiration to your family as they embarked on their path in life.  Their achievements, as well as those of everyone else you have inspired, are a part of your legacy.”

Adding to the many tributes from fellow Swanton Legionnaires and past Post Commanders was CPO Reese.  “I just really appreciate being here.  It’s an incredible honor just to able to be in your presence, sir,” said the Chief. One hundred years and your service across three wars.  Your generation set the example that my generation and those that follow can only hoped to fill your shoes.  You cast a pretty large shadow.”

Speaking to Toledo television station WTOL11, Billy commented on his service.  “It’s not for everybody, but for me, I enjoyed it, he said.  “And, if you want comradeship, good fellows, get into the service.”

Initial thoughts of holding this highly-deserved celebration came from Swanton Legion Commander Rick Maynhart during a meeting this past February.  According to Legion member John Schmidt, who served as the emcee, planning began in earnest about two months ago.  The celebration was well organized, heavily attended and will be a lasting tribute to one of America’s and Swanton’s heroes. 

Click on the link above to access photos from the celebration. Photos are in the jpeg format to allow for editing and can be downloaded for NO CHARGE courtesy of the fultoncountymedia.com website.

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