The first time Ermin Humpal volunteered was in 1940. He was 18 years old, and he joined the Navy as a flight engineer. Humpal’s enlistment put him at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
He is one of the few remaining survivors from that infamous attack.
Sixty-seven years later, at age 85, Ermin Humpal is still volunteering, escorting patients to physical therapy at the Clement Manor Nursing Home in Hales Corners.
“I just enjoy working with these people, and I’m thankful I’m able to do this,” said Humpal who stands about 6 feet tall, has white hair, strong hands and deep-set crystal blue eyes. “You meet a lot of wonderful people and get to hear their life stories.”
Humpal has been volunteering at Clement Manor for 22 years, since retiring in 1985 from a 40-year career at Sacred Heart Monastery.
“A lot of people wonder what I did right,” said Humpal while discussing his longevity, strength and good health. He gives credit to Pauline, his wife of 61 years, whom he met while in the service and she was volunteering as a USO hostess in St. Louis.
“I looked across the room and saw this woman in a pretty yellow dress and said, ‘That’s the girl for me,'” said Humpal, who took his future bride out for shrimp dinner at midnight that same evening.
The Humpals raised six children and have 17 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
“When the grandkids write an assignment in school about the person they admire most, Ermin is usually the one they pick because of his service at Pearl Harbor,” said Pauline.
Ermin’s mother did a lot of volunteering at church, and his family grew up on a farm in Iowa.
Humpal said keeping a good sense of humor is important in his work as a volunteer.
“There was one lady I was supposed to pick up and take down to therapy, and she said, ‘I can’t come down,'” he said. “I asked why not, and she said, ‘They didn’t put my bra on yet.’ I told the woman they wouldn’t do that, and she promptly lifted up her blouse and said, ‘LOOK!'”
Humpal said he turned his head and “scooted out of the room pretty fast.”
According to Pauline, everyone at the nursing home is familiar with her husband’s pleasant demeanor and easy smile.
Margie Davoodi nominated her father for the Health Care Heroes Award.
“He always has a smile and a kind word for everyone, and he takes pride in making someone else’s life a little easier,” said Davoodi, who finds it amazing that her dad is helping people who are younger than he is. “He’s always been very dedicated. Other people and the church have always come first.”
When not volunteering, Humpal plays golf three days a week during the warm months.
“We had a senior tournament at Rivermore Country Club in Waterford, and I took first place,” said Humpal, who has a handicap of 19.