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San Clemente Journal

Robert “Doc” Hayden Living Life to the Fullest at 104

Aug 30, 2021 06:39PM ● By Donia Moore

Bob enjoying a San Clemente Dons Christmas Party with daughter Shirley Goldman.

“Secret For a Long Life?
Eat Nuts and Drink 
a Manhattan Daily.”  - Robert “Doc” Hayden 

by Donia Moore

Robert “Doc” Hayden is 104 years old and as full of sparkle and energy as people half his age. “Just think, I could have had a son who would be 80 years old now!” he laughed recently during an interview for the Journal. Of course, patience, a sense of humor, and love for his family, home and community have helped him to reach this pinnacle of his life, but he insists that the “real” reason for his clear and clever mind is simple: a dish of nuts and his favorite Manhattan cocktail daily! 

It also might help that he has been a Rotarian since 1951. As the record holding oldest living Rotarian (70 years this coming August) achieving the club’s highest honor – a Paul Harris Fellowship for his work and donations to the Rotary Foundation - may have provided a little boost. Or, perhaps the fact that he has traveled to 41 countries in his lifetime from Indonesia to India, or that he has actually walked on the Great Wall of China may have spurred him on. And to remind him, he has a map of the world with every port of call he’s ever made marked upon it. But he still says his favorite country remains the USA.

Join the Army, See the World
Bob graduated from UCLA and worked for Douglas Aircraft until 1942 when, like so many young graduates of that era, he joined the Army just in time for World War II. His accounting background and studies made him an excellent candidate for working in budgeting and finance.
The Army, in its wisdom, assigned him to the transportation area where he became a truck driver, transporting vehicles and supplies to the allied front lines through France and Germany. Slightly built with glasses, charm and an air of the scholar about him, Bob did not look like the average truck driver. In fact, his burlier co- drivers took to calling him “Doc.” 

His company was sent to Marseilles and they spent the first night sleeping in Army issued “pup-tents.” Next morning, they were off on the first of their ultimately 13,000-mile treks through the Rhone Valley and Germany heading for France. The trip was scenic and beautiful until they got to Leon, France, where all the beautiful old bridges had been blown up. But there was some good news waiting for them on the lovely September morning that they stopped in Horchts, Germany, a short distance from Frankfurt … the Japanese had surrendered! A few months earlier, Germany had also surrendered, and Bob and his convoy “liberated” some fine French wine to celebrate V Day. The conflict was basically over, and Corporal Robert Hayden, along with many other young men and women, headed home to their next adventure.

Getting Down to Business
Raised in Long Beach, Bob always wanted to be an Eagle Scout, like his older brother whom he admired as a role model. Only about 4% of Boy Scouts attain the Eagle rank, and he is currently the oldest Eagle Scout in Orange County. He put that same hard work ethic into building his career.

As a college-trained accountant who had served in the Military, Bob quickly passed his CPA exam and was awarded his license. He moved to Laguna Beach where he opened an accounting business in 1951. He traded in his smaller firm (four clients) to buy a larger accounting practice in San Clemente, a town of 2,200 at that time. He believed it wouldn’t be long until the town grew, and he was certainly right. At the time Bob relocated to San Clemente, there was one downtown business area, a main street with one stop light, and no freeway. Now, San Clemente has 65,000 residents and a healthy business environment, multiple stoplights and a robust corridor along the 5 Freeway. Once in town, he met Chuck Narey and John Persich, and the three of them formed a long running CPA partnership in the Spanish Village by the Sea.

Leading From the Heart
Bob took to San Clemente like the proverbial duck to water. He bought a lovely home on Cordoba and immediately involved himself in the heartbeat of San Clemente. His interests took the shape of community service. He was a member of the Planning Commission and the San Clemente Chamber of Commerce, and the Rotary Club. He helped establish the new Senior Center, Courtney’s Sandcastle, Boys and Girls Club, and Family Assistance Ministry. In 2016, his name was placed on the San Clemente Wall of Recognition.

Today, he remains involved and interested in San Clemente but is enjoying the increased time he spends with his extensive family. His first wife passed away long ago, but the children she left behind have filled him with delight and he considers them all his own. Married to his last beautiful wife Carol for 40 years, the number six has been a lucky charm for him. His six children have multiplied to include six grandchildren and six great grandchildren as well as nieces and nephews. He is thrilled that one of his daughter Shirley will be moving from her current home to stay with him here in San Clemente. Let’s hope she likes nuts and Manhattans, too!