With a grin so large that it crinkled the soft folds around his eyes, John Woodford, 103, spoke face-to-face on Friday with the out-of-state brother he thought he’d never see again.
The method — a video conference — was unexpected for the siblings, who recalled a time when their ranch house didn’t have electricity and they took a horse and buggy into town.
The older brother went to the San Luis Obispo Veterans Affairs Community Clinic to chat with his 101-year-old brother, Ivan Woodford, of Reno, Nev. The VA in Reno arranged the meeting when the brothers couldn’t travel to be with one another for Ivan Woodford’s birthday celebration in July.
The pair reminisced about sneaking out to the watermelon patch, catching critters in tin cans and being rambunctious little boys growing up on a Southern California cattle ranch at Lake Elsinore.
“Do you remember we had that hay barn and we’d get up in the rafters and do flips off into the hay?” John Woodford asked his brother.
“I do,” Ivan Woodford replied. “And it was a big barn — six stalls.”
The constant flow of conversation and recollections from sharp memories impressed the crowd gathered in the room.
The brothers even remembered spotting the first car in town.
“It looked like a buggy but it had a motor under the seat and a crank on the side,” John Woodford said.
It had been 10 years since they had seen each other — they speak often on the phone — yet they both wore wire-rimmed eyeglasses and green shirts Friday.
When the younger Woodford went off to war, John Woodford stayed behind because he was sick with brucellosis, also known as undulant fever.
“They said I wouldn’t survive it. Guess they were wrong,” he said with a grin, noting that a kind wife and good genes helped with longevity.
He and his wife, 98-year-old Mickey, came to San Luis Obispo from Ojai nine years ago to be closer to family. They’ve been married 40 years, a second marriage for both.
“We met at church, and I offered to help carry her books,” he said.
Mickey Woodford, appearing not a day over 70, smiled at the memory.