West Miami resident Mary Ellen Mykytka, 52, faced a challenge recuperating in rehab after knee surgery last year.
But one person motivated her to get up — her 90-year-old father and World War II veteran Teodore Mykytka.
“He is an inspiration,” she said. “I had knee surgery and I saw him walking. In my mind, I had to get up because he would get up.”
On July 6, Mykytka, originally from New Jersey, received a certificate of recognition on his 90th birthday and for his service to the United States Army. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge during the war. He has lived in West Miami since 1949 just a short time after it was incorporated in 1947.
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“There were pine trees all around here,” he recalled. “My wife thought we were moving into the wilderness, but as development went on everyone made friends.”
His wife, Ann, passed away in 1999. They were married for more than 50 years and had four children. He remembers his wife putting a down payment of $5 for the house they currently live in. He credits the military life for his longevity.
“The secret is the army life because of the regimen and the food is good,” he said.
He was in the service for 12 years and in the reserves for 29 years. He retired at 60 as he also worked in civil affairs. The University of Miami architectural engineering grad was surprised to learn of his recognition.
His daughter made him attend a recent budget meeting, where he was surprised to see his family at City Hall and later received the honor.
“I feel honorable,” said Teodore Mykytka, who last attended a meeting about two years ago. “I didn’t know anything at all. They told me there was going to be a budget meeting.”
Mary Ellen, who has a tattoo of her father’s rank in the army, knew of his recognition for more than a month.
“I started to cry,” she said. “I felt shaky and I was excited.”
Although he retired at 60 years old, Teodore Mykytka doesn’t believe he was ready to hang up his boots.
“I would have kept going,” he said.