He's been voting for presidents since Calvin Coolidge

At age 102, William Anderson has seen the best and worst of presidents, with FDR coming out on top.

Published November 3, 2004

SPRING HILL - William Joseph Anderson has precious few chances these days to gab about the state of the nation.

Now 102, Anderson has outlived friends and neighbors, six brothers and sisters and three wives. Not to mention just about everybody else who was born in 1902.

"I have nobody to discuss politics with," he says. "I miss that."

So when he catches a glimpse of some politician campaigning on television, he's apt to shake his head and share his displeasure with Jasmine or Shamus, toy poodle mixes, or his goldfish, Diane.

He reads the newspaper every day with the aid of a magnifying glass, and the basket on his walker is piled with copies of Newsweek, his favorite magazine. But his sight is failing, and he's worried he will soon lose the ability to read.

Casting a vote, however, is still in Anderson's power. Tuesday, after downing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sugar cookie and coffee for lunch, Anderson's stepdaughter drove him to his polling place so he could cast a ballot in his 20th presidential election.

Anderson was born in a Boston hospital and spent his early years in Wellesley, which is just outside the city. In 1924, he voted in his first presidential contest, backing Republican Calvin Coolidge, who had impressed the young man with his handling of a Boston police strike when Coolidge was governor of Massachusetts.

"My father was a Democrat, an Irish Democrat," Anderson said at his home in the Wellington at Seven Hills before heading to the polls. "But I vote for the man."

For him, the best man by far was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who despite his physical disabilities pulled the country through the Great Depression and World War II. Those were hard times, Anderson recalled, the country was in the dumps but at least it was united and secure.

As Anderson sees it, the social welfare programs FDR spearheaded are threatened, America has embarked on an unjustified invasion of a foreign country - spurring global animosity - and the rich continue to prosper while the poor get poorer.

Things are as bad as they have ever been, according to Anderson, and he is worried by the prospect of a terrorist detonating a nuclear device in an American city.

"I'm kind of glad I won't be here much longer," he said. "But I would kind of like to stick around to see what happens."

During his career, Anderson worked as a credit manager and in Massachusetts public schools, teaching typing and penmanship. He retired in 1967 and ran a tax preparation business before coming to Hernando 22 years ago.

He lives with his stepdaughter, 65-year-old Shirley Dillon, a George W. Bush supporter, and her husband.

Anderson has recently taken a liking to the writing in Esquire magazine, and added that to his subscription list. He is a rabid football fan - preferring it to the slow pace of baseball - and often yells at the television during Bucs games.

If you are still wondering, Anderson voted for Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday, though he said the senator would be lucky to lose given what a mess Bush has created. He predicted a Bush victory, in fact, saying the Republican had expended more energy and told more lies.

Though he prefers Kerry, Anderson is not wild about the man, and said the senator would weather a loss just fine. After all, the guy is a millionaire.

Anderson credits his longevity to a love of fish and cheap whiskey, and avoiding fat.

After casting his ballot and announcing to poll workers, "Well, that didn't hurt. I'll see you in four years," Anderson returned home, and Dillon fixed him his daily cocktail, a Manhattan.

As the election results came in Tuesday night, Anderson planned to take his supper at the Boston Cooker in Spring Hill.

The place doesn't compare to Jimmy's Harborside back home in Boston, but it will do.

"They have fresh fish," Anderson said approvingly.

When a reporter who had paid him a visit stood to leave, Anderson thanked him for sitting to talk politics. And listening to his memories.

Will Van Sant can be reached at 352 754-6127 or vansant@sptimes.com