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Hazer still working at 100

Lester Hazer is seen June 13 at Hazer's Auto & Truck Parts in West Fargo, Lester has worked at the family business for 43 years. Logan Werlinger / Forum News Service

West Fargo resident Lester Hazer opened Hazer's Auto & Truck Parts in 1969 and has been working there ever since.

He was in his mid-50s at that time.

Two weeks ago, he celebrated his 100th birthday and shows no signs of stopping.

"We have to check with the Guinness Book of Records, but he's probably the oldest wrecker driver in the world," Lester's son Duane said. "You don't meet too many people now that were born in a sod house."

Lester was married to his late wife, Rose, for 50 years. They had six kids together, and have a combined total of 69 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.

While he has stopped working on the management side -- handing that responsibility to Duane and his son, Dan -- Lester still drives the "wrecker" and hauls vehicles, sometimes up to five times a day. According to Lester, working at the shop is not only his job, but also his hobby.

"I spend all of my time here," Lester said. "I haul cars. That's how I spend my free time. I've had many days here for the past 43 years, and I don't have any interest in anyone else's business, so I might as well keep working. Even at my age, I don't want to be sitting around."

Lester often surprises his grandson with the things he is capable of at his age.

"He can be such a tough, hardy guy," Dan said. "Just having something to do keeps him going, and I think he will keep going until he can't. I was helping him clear out the garage a while back, and there was a box with seven or eight gallons of antifreeze that he just picked up and put on the truck. He just sticks with it."

Before moving to West Fargo 45 years ago, Lester spent his life on the farm near his hometown of McHenry, N.D. He was 16 years old when the stock market crashed in 1929, and remembers it well.

"He remembers going to the gas station, handing the clerk money and having the clerk say it's worthless now," Dan said. "You can ask people today 'where were you on 9/11?' but he can tell you where he was the moment the banks collapsed."

A century's worth of experiences can harden a man's personality, but Lester has remained light-hearted throughout his life.

"It's just a constant interaction of jokes with him," Duane said. "We can never be too serious around each other."

While Lester, theoretically, could have retired in the 70s, he never really understood the point of doing so.

"I never could figure when that 'retirement age' was," Lester said. "I wasn't ready to stop then, and I'm still not ready. I see myself quitting this place when I'm lying in a box. How many people would say that? People that retire don't usually live this long. You've got to keep your brain going."

Likewise, he doesn't see turning 100 as an impressive milestone.

"It doesn't really feel any different," Lester said. "I've got pretty good health. I've got bad legs, but they've seen a lot of miles."

According to his grandson, Hazer's Auto & Truck Parts isn't the only thing that Lester has passed down to his family.

"What he has shown me is how to weather difficult situations," Dan said. "He has been through so much that it doesn't bother him. He has a deeper perspective on things. Some bits of wisdom can only come from experience, and because he has such a sharp mind, he can show me how to handle things without getting worked up. He is also one the most honest and kind people I know."

Hazer's Auto & Truck Parts is located at 811 9th St NE and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.