Man who grew up in Nazi Germany to celebrate 100th birthday in Bloomington

There are an estimated 72,000 or more centenarians living in the United States right now, according to government reports, and that number will continue to grow. 

Listening to anyone's life story is interesting, but when you have the chance to talk to someone who has lived 100 years of history, stop and listen.

Bloomington, Minnesota's Joe Moses will turn 100 in September and he's lived a life with many, many chapters. 

Born in Germany, he watched Jesse Owens win gold in front of Hitler at the 1936 Olympics. That was shortly before his family fled Nazi Germany fearing for their own safety as the laws became more and more oppressive for Jewish families like his. 

His parents had a plan to slowly move the family to the United States where they had family. 

"They had a better understanding than I did at that age, what was going on," Joe said. "Also, in that small town (where he lived) people were told not to do business with my family."

In Germany, his family owned a flour mill and they were one of just a few Jewish families in their town.   Laws hurt their business and also prevented Joe from seeking a high school education. So, starting at 14, he went to a trade school to learn to be a baker. 

He left Germany at age 17, boarded a boat and traveled alone to the U.S. But when he thinks back to his childhood in Germany, he still remembers moments of kindness. 

There was a dairy farmer who made sure his mother got butter, even though Jews weren't allowed to buy it.  And there was the Christian principal at his elementary school who resisted the Nazi teachings. 

"He would never give in, and he never got in trouble. He was never arrested. Some people were in such high standing, they could resist," Joe said.

Joe eventually made his way to St. Paul figuring he would be a baker until he was drafted into the Army Air Corps for World War II.  He worked on tele-type machines that took in 25,000 to 50,000 coded messages a day and he realized he had a knack for engineering. 

"I set the machines up so that they could send - with one transmitter - to 8 different locations at the same time," he said.

He got the attention of the higher ups, and after the service, took engineering classes at the University of Minnesota.  

Eventually, he started his own company, Lee's Stamping Incorporated, which made some of the first parts for IBM computers and Xerox copiers. 

The name "Lee" is the middle name of his wife Frances, his wife of 64 years. At 91, she's the younger one. 

"When you were younger, you lied about your age, but when you hit 91, it's a badge of honor," she said.

Joe sold his business and retired about 20 years ago, but he never stopped working. He volunteered at Bloomington Kennedy High School where he met Industrial Technology teacher Kevin Baas. Baas, who now works at Lakeville North High School, says Moses was an incredible mentor. 

"From the moment I met him, he was like another father to me," Baas said.

Joe has had a life of twists and turns that he could never have predicted, but he does recall one peculiar clue from back in his days in Germany. In his mother's journal for the flour mill, there was an entry every single month for a delivery. The delivery came from Minneapolis and General Mills. 

All these years later, he still finds that so interesting - the clue that he would one day be a proud American and Minnesotan.