Outdoors

World War II veteran to conquer in The Cowtown 5K one day after turning 100 years young

Ernie Lacroix turns 100 on Feb 22. The following day he will be among the field of The Cowtown Marathon, running in the 5K event.
Ernie Lacroix turns 100 on Feb 22. The following day he will be among the field of The Cowtown Marathon, running in the 5K event. Lacroix Family

The Energizer Bunny doesn’t have a thing on Ernie Lacroix.

Lacroix turns 100 on Feb 22. 

The following day he will be among the field of The Cowtown Marathon, running in the 5K event.

Well, he will actually be walking, but he will be there, participating as he has done for many years.

“I am just absolutely delighted that I can still participate without really ‘competing,’” he said with a smile. “I just feel that I have been extremely fortunate, all around, in my life and that I hope it continues for a while longer.”

He regularly walks three to five miles each day. And if the weather is inclement, he walks in a nearby mall.

“He’s a little upset that he can’t walk as fast as he used to, but carries his cane,” said his son, Steven, 68. “But he refuses to use his cane all the time. He said he just won’t do that.”

Steven and his dad have walked together in the Cowtown and Turkey Trot for almost two decades. And every Fourth of July, he said his sister flies down from Massachusetts and participates in a walk with her father.

And, of course, this is set to be the most memorable race of them all, with the whole family taking part.

“I can’t think of anything more special than walking with my son and two daughters, plus grandchildren and great-grand children,” Ernie said. “We will have four generations in this from all over the country - Idaho, Colorado, Massachusetts Rhode Island, and Texas.”

Ernie has no lifelong history of running or walking. He just decided one year that he’d like to take part. In his younger years he was active in the outdoors, with his favorite sports including skiing, hunting, hiking and camping. He also enjoyed playing hockey and tennis.

“I grew up in New England and we moved to Fort Worth in 1951. Then my skiing was done in New Mexico and  Colorado,” he said. “I last skied on my 70th birthday, in Santa Fe.”

Ernie is a World War II veteran, having flown 76 missions in France, Italy and North Africa. He received numerous honors for his heroics, including a special award last year on Veterans Day from the French government, making him a member of the Knights in the French Legion of Honor.

His plane was named Smoky’s Posse, which is also the name of his family team in the Cowtown.

It was after the war that he came to work in Fort Worth at the General Dynamics plant as an acceptance pilot, testing the B32. There he met his wife of 69 years, Helen Blanton. She passed away in 2015.

“I don’t know if he ever forgave mom for going before they made 70 (years),” Steven said with a chuckle. “But seriously, they were an amazing couple, and they loved each other so much. There’s not a week that goes by that he doesn’t visit her (gravesite) at least twice.”

Ernie used to play golf regularly, but no more. He still swims on occasion. And his mind is as active anyone a third of his age, Steven said.

“He can work a crossword puzzle in no time, and he reads all the time. He believes if you stop being active in all ways, you’re dead. He stays busy all day every day,” Steven said.

“It’s an amazing display of strength, of self awareness, and dedication,” said Leslie Casey, vice chair of The Cowtown. “It goes beyond race day. How awesome that he is able and healthy enough. We should all take up his example.”

And Ernie has no plans on stopping his participation in the Cowtown, he said.

“I would like to continue as long as I am able. I’m not concerned at all with everybody else being finished and there I come. It’s just a lot of enjoyment for the old man in any case.”

However, Steven said with a laugh there is more to that than what his dad admits.

“Dad always says, ‘I’m not worried about my time. I just want to finish.’ And every time, the first thing he does is check his time,” Steven said.

To which Ernie smiled and said, “I like to see if I can beat somebody in the 80s bracket.”

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Sports editor William Wilkerson is back for his second stint with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He first worked at the paper after graduating from the University of Texas at Austin. He most recently was the Executive Editor of College-Team Sites for CBS Interactive/247Sports and has also worked at ESPN, Scout.com and the Austin American-Statesman.

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