Noble Midkiff spent 33 months and 10 days away from his new bride during World War II and 33 years of his life in education. After spending a life dedicated in service to others, Midkiff now finds himself on the receiving end of acts of kindness as he anticipates his 100th birthday.
On Friday, Aug. 30, Midkiff will not only wake to his 100th year on earth, he will also wake to the tinny sound of a military bugle playing reveille on his front porch thanks to members of the American Legion. On Saturday, Aug. 31, the festivities will continue at the Fordsville Community Center as the hundreds of people Midkiff has impacted over the years, including members of the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) and Legion Riders, come to celebrate his life.
“We’ve got all kinds of things going on,” said Noble’s son Jim Midkiff. “We’re expecting at least a couple hundred people — we are inviting the world. He’s one of those people everyone thinks a lot of. We had over 350 at his 90th, so I think we’ll have a nice crowd.”
Noble graduated from high school in 1937 and attended college at Western Kentucky University. In 1939, he taught in his first one-room schoolhouse and, on December 6, 1941, the night before Pearl Harbor was bombed, he married the love of his life, Ada Virginia Tinius.
He was drafted into the Army the following spring and left for North Africa in June of 1942, just seven months after getting married.
Noble went nearly three years without seeing his wife or his parents. He attained the rank of T5, or corporal, and said he and Ada received $50 a month, including an extra $10 while he was overseas.
According to Noble, he “once went 29 hours without a bite of food,” and suffered three separate injuries in combat, earning him, not only the Purple Heart Commendation Medal, but an oak leaf cluster for each additional injury. According to his son Jim, one of Noble’s wounds caused blood to get on the picture he carried of Ava all 33 months he was away.
“I was in harm’s way over 500 days of my military service,” Noble said, adding that he sustained a debris injury to his left hand in North Africa, was wounded in Italy in 1944 in a battle that claimed the life of his best friend and endured shrapnel to his shoulders and temple in 1945.
“That’s when they almost got me,” Noble said. “I laid in a ditch for almost two hours waiting. They came to pick me up and didn’t know I’d lost one of my comrades.”
Noble now proudly wears a baseball cap when he goes into town that bears the Purple Heart insignia and reads, “Combat Wounded.”
“I wear that cap everywhere but church and funerals,” Noble said. “I do that in memory of those that didn’t come back. There is no greater bond in life than veterans, especially combat veterans — this I know.”
After returning home in 1945, Noble went on to pursue his Master’s degree and Rank I in teaching and spent 33 years of his life in education. He and Ada remained married for 62 and a half years and had three children, seven grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.
Even after enduring the pain and isolation of nearly three years in combat, Noble said those experiences pale in comparison to the loss of his wife Ada.
“I lost my best friend and partner on May 5, 2004,” Noble said. “I just cope with that daily and do the best that I can do.”
Noble still writes his own checks, pays his own bills and cares for himself during the day. One of seven children, he attributes much of his longevity to his good genes, as five siblings are still living, with the exception of his oldest brother who died two months shy of his 98th birthday.
Even at nearly 100 years old, Noble has not lost his quick wit and sense of humor.
“The reason I’m so old is because I was raised on cornbread and buttermilk,” Noble said. “I want to live to be 200 — I’ve got a lot of people I still want to fool.”
Noble Midkiff’s 100th birthday celebration will be held Saturday, August 31 from 2-4 p.m. at the Fordsville Community Center located at 160 West Main St., next to the Fordsville Fire Department.