His sights are set on 120.

Eberhardt and his wife of 72 years, Marie, C’90.
Eberhardt and his wife of 72 years, Marie, C’90.

George Eberhardt likes jokes, bad puns and pretty women. At his age—he turns 109 today—these are definitely virtues.

Eberhardt on the occasion of his 80 birthday, nearly three decades ago.
Eberhardt on the occasion of his 80 birthday, nearly three decades ago.

“Being 109 is a good thing, but I’m not old enough,” Eberhardt said while visiting the Drew campus last week with his wife, Marie, 90, C’90. “I intend to become considerably older.”

Eberhardt, a friendly, elfin man, has been a fixture in the Forest for nearly half a century. After a long career at Bell Labs, he arrived on campus as the university’s new sound engineer in 1967, and stayed on until he was nearly 100. During that time he received an honorary doctorate, was inducted into the Drew Hall of Fame and had a dormitory named after him.

Eberhardt was born in Newark in 1904. When young George was thirteen, his father bought 66 acres in rural Chester Township, where George and Marie have lived since 1947. George, who had two children with a former wife, married Marie in 1941. They have five children, now 52 to 67.

He has joined two studies probing longevity, including the Boston University School of Medicine’s New England Centenarian Study. In just a year he will become a “supercentenarian,” the study’s term for people 110 or older. They occur at a rate of about one per seven million. Like many centenarians, Eberhardt has always been lean (he played tennis into his 90s) and does not smoke (he quit in 1920). Unlike other centenarians, however, he does not come from an especially long-lived family.

His eyesight is poor these days. He wears two hearing aids and walks, very gingerly, with a cane. He is also a cancer survivor. In 2004 he was diagnosed with Type B lymphoma and successfully treated. His says he plans to live to 120: “I have nine regular doctors. My main one said there’s no reason I can’t, unless I get an incurable cancer. I did that already.”

Eberhardt will celebrate his birthday with a big family party. He has requested pizza. And for dessert, his favorite cake: mocha prune.