100 years strong

in Profile by

By Molly Ingram

David Brophy was born and raised in New York and was part of the famous 7th Regiment Militia (similar to today’s National Guard) in New York. They were called into Federal Service with the approach of World War II and David headed to Camp Stewart in Georgia, his first introduction to living in the south.

As the war heated up, David enlisted in the Air Force where he became a navigator on B-17’s. During his training in Sacramento he met a young Marjorie Kohl who he then corresponded with throughout his overseas duty and promptly married three weeks after his return from the war. Together they had two children, Peter Brophy of Denver and Janice Brophy Billingsley of New York City.

During the war, David flew 25 daylight bombing missions over Germany before fighter escorts became the norm. He was based in Ridgewell, England and remembered this story: “I particularly remember one mission where we had the tires shot out of our plane so we had to do a crash landing in Ridgewell. Somehow we made it and the base Chaplain came out and blessed us since everyone on the ground was sure we would die in the crash. But we made it.”

After the war had ended, David, like everyone else, had to find a job. He ended up with a lifelong career in the textile business and with his typical wit David describes himself as a “string peddler.” I am pretty sure with his engaging humor, storytelling, and infectious grin, David was a tremendously successful salesman and a lot more than just a “string peddler.”

So how did David transition from Rye, NY where he and his family were living to a retired life here in Beaufort? “Well that’s another interesting story,” he says. “I had a friend named Charlie Granville and one year I was crewing on his boat bringing it north for the summer. We pulled into Beaufort and I was out of money so I went looking for someplace where I could cash a check. Couldn’t find any place and was getting somewhat desperate when up stepped the Beaufort Harbor Master who proceeded to cash my check for me. I never forgot him.”

Years later, David and his 2nd wife Irene (known as “Reenie”), were in Savannah visiting her daughters when they took a trip up to Beaufort. And when they came back to Savannah they had somehow managed to buy a house on New Street on the Point. This is where David and Irene moved to when retirement finally came. And that was about 30 years ago.

Known as the original definition of a “party guy”, David found lots to do in Beaufort to keep busy between social engagements. There was world travelling of course, volunteering at the Library, being involved with lots of Rotary projects, and being a part of the strong parishioner base at St. Peter’s.

His two children, Peter and Jan threw a luncheon for David’s milestone birthday this past weekend for about 35 of his closest cohorts. Jan said, “Having Dad still alive and able to still participate provides a wonderful way to keep family connected in this day and age. And what better way to do it than with a party for family and friends. Besides immediate family, Dad has eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren and a ton of cousins who will be able to remember him for years to come. That is indeed a gift.”

David seems to have a personal philosophy about life that can be boiled down to just two words. “Why not?” And I think it is what has kept him going all these 100+ years. David has a sense of adventure, coupled with a sense of humor which seems to keep him young. He is very funny and has a real twinkle in his eye and I can’t think of anything nicer I could say about this charming gentleman. Why not indeed!

The officers and enlisted men of Brophy's B-17 Bomber.
The officers and enlisted men of Brophy’s B-17 Bomber.