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Lathrop man , 105, covets AAA membership family
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Driving until he was 104, W.H. Sims chats with AAA manager Julie Houllier at Friday’s membership appreciation day at the insurance company’s offices on West Yosemite Avenue in Manteca. Both Sims and his nephew (right) Larry Stoglin are U.S. Army veterans. - photo by GLENN KAHL

A man of principle, W.H. Sims of Lathrop continues to hold his head high having made his mark in the world for 105 years with a strong faith that has never wavered.

Having  a perfect driving record, Sims said he has never had a traffic accident or a citation and has never touched a bottle of beer.

Sims was the honored guest Friday at the California AAA membership appreciation celebration for being the oldest individual who continues to be part of the insurance family.

One of 15 children, Sims hails from Louisiana and came to the Bay Area in the early ‘20s where he was later refused membership because he was “colored” he said, having to join another insurance company.  He had already established  membership with the firm in Lake Charles, LA.

Belonging to a family of one-time share croppers, he is now  celebrating his many generations with the firm alongside a black AAA manager Julie Houllier who struck up an immediate friendship with the centenarian and his nephew Larry Stoglin.

Sims and his nephew chatted with Houllier outside the insurance office during the celebration.  As the office manager walked away from the men Sims was heard to say, “Now she’s a beautiful woman.”

Stoglin said the family allowed Sims to continue driving as long as it appeared safe.  A deeply religious man, he drove from his home in Lathrop every Sunday morning to the Williams Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.   

Sims said he served most every function at the church over the years including that of Sunday school superintendent.  Having a modest hearing problem, his nephew offered to add to his life’s achievements.

Stoglin said his uncle reads two papers from cover to cover daily, the Oakland Tribune and U.S.A Today, and watches his ball games on television constantly to the point it’s hard to get him out of the house.

“He reads the Bible daily and prior to going to bed he meditates and prays every night,” he added.

Born on September 5, 1905, Sims joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1942 at the age of 37 working as a heavy duty equipment operator and later as a truck driver.  

When he got out of the Army he opened an auto mechanics shop in Oakland, California in the late ‘40s.  Sims also worked as an Oakland police officer for a period of time.

Sims has outlived his three wives and two children along with most of his brothers and sisters.  He has two surviving siblings, Jessee Esprit, 100, of Texas and Samuel Sims, 84, living in Louisiana.

His nephew, Larry Stoglin, said his uncle lives with him and his family in Lathrop where the closeness of family has always been of utmost importance.  Stoglin has also spent his time in the Army like his uncle, serving with the 82nd and the 103rd Airborne Divisions – retired after 23 years of active duty service.