Elvis Summers was born on August 13, 1920, in a small town in southern Illinois. Summers was the fourth child of eight born on his parents’ farm. Every day he and his siblings walked a mile to a one-room schoolhouse where one teacher taught grades kindergarten through eighth. Summers didn’t have time for a hobby as a boy since all his spare time out of school was spent working on the farm. Everyone in the family had a job, and there were enough jobs to keep them all busy. Whether you were fetching water from the well or working the fields, there was always work to do. Summers reminisced, “If you were big enough to hang on to a horse, you were driving them around the field.” Everything they ate was raised or grown on their farm, making sure they put enough away for the cold winter months.
Summers eventually went to work on the railroad but stayed close to the farm and was even teased for being a momma’s boy. He said it was his job to make sure the railroad track was level and exclaimed with a laugh, “I made sure it was leveled up, so the trains didn’t fall off!” He continued to work for the railroad until the United States Army drafted him at 22 years old.
After being drafted, Summers was sent to California for basic training and later sent to Washington for infantry training. “I trained with the infantry but never saw the frontlines,” Summers explained. He went on to say, “I never really had much experience with a weapon before the Army.” Although his memory was foggy, he remembered being sent to the Philippines and then on to Okinawa, Japan. Summers explained, “the military was a job, and you got used to what you had to do, and I enjoyed my job.” Throughout his time in the Army, Summers drove a supply truck between companies delivering things they needed. He was loading a truck one day when his superior came up to him, and his first thought was, “Oh boy, what did I do now?” he went on to say, “but he told me I was going home, and he didn’t have to say no more!” Summers spent some time in Hawaii before he made his way back home.
When asked what the Army taught him, he concluded with more laughter, “They taught me how to walk!” He noted how everyone loved their beer in the military, but he tried one sip and hated it. He reflected on how he did make one really good buddy while he was enlisted. His buddy’s mom would send care packages, and he would always share them with Summers. They continued to write to each other and stay in touch for several years after they were discharged.
Once Summers was home, he met his sister’s friend, Nyla Mae, lovingly known as Mae. They took a liking to each other and were married in 1947. Summers worked a few different jobs in his hometown, even working at a hospital as a caretaker, before moving north to Elgin, IL, for better job opportunities. The Summers’ had three sons, sadly losing one at 16 years of age. Working at a casket company, Summers retired in 1982, which was 25 years to the day exactly after he started. He expressed, “I didn’t make a lot of money in my life, but I had a good life. I always had what I needed.” After retirement, he found he couldn’t sit still. His need to stay busy had him working many part-time jobs over the years. His beloved wife Mae passed away eleven years ago after 64 years of marriage.
Summers has a passion for the outdoors. All his life, his favorite pastime was to work in his yard. He explained, “I hate to be inside and don’t like to sit still; I always want to keep busy.” He remarked, “I wish I could still do yard work; I really miss it.” Then with a laugh, he said, “Now I just watch Christina do all the work!” Christina is his caregiver and he loves to joke with her. Their favorite activity is taking a walk when the weather allows. He also loves spending time with his little schnauzer named Missy.
Summers has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His youngest great-grandchild is a year old, and he has only been able to see her through photos and videos due to COVID. He stated with a chuckle, “now that I’m 100 years old, I am starting over, so I tell everyone I’m only six months old!” There was more laughter as we concluded that he was now younger than his one-year-old grandchild. If you are lucky enough to spend any time with Elvis Summers, you will spend that time laughing.
Elvis has been a client of Assisting Hands of Elgin, IL, since 2015. He has become somewhat of a celebrity in the community due to the birthday parties thrown for him by Assisting Hands of Elgin, IL. South Elgin Police and Fire blocked off the streets while the American Legion Freedom Riders and Veterans came from all over to thank him for his service and wish him a happy 100th birthday. Operation Warriors also helped get the Chicago Cubs to make Summers his very own Cubs jersey, marking it the first time in history that the Cubs added a third number to the back. The ever-humble Summers is happiest sitting on his front porch with his caregiver and his dog Missy. He proudly wears his Army hat and waves to neighbors with a smile while his American Flag is blowing in the wind.
Angela Flintz owner of Assisting Hands Elgin, IL, stated, “We at Assisting Hands of Elgin are so thankful for our partnership with VCC that enables us to give back to those that gave so much for us. It is a complete honor and privilege to know and care for our American Heroes. The things we have had the opportunity to learn from these Veterans is something that no school or history book could ever teach us.”
Veterans Care Coordination is proud to recognize Elvis Summers for his service to our country. We are privileged to have the opportunity to share the stories of our nation’s heroes.