William Mohr, a 108-year-old World War II veteran, relaxed Sunday on the sunny patio of his Hatboro bungalow, his emotions ranging from joy over meeting President Obama at the White House on Veterans Day to tears for his late wife, Josephine, who died last year at the age of 98.
After joining 200 military guests for breakfast in the East Room, Mohr, sitting in his wheelchair and wearing his homemade 108th-birthday badge, was summoned into the Blue Room to meet Obama.
Assisted by his daughter, Joanne, 68, and son Rick, 60, Mohr told Obama, " 'I have only one thing to say to you, sir. I hope and pray you will have the strength of mind and body to do your job and make the best decisions for America,' " Joanne recalled.
The president asked Mohr how he'd managed to live for 108 years. Mohr said he didn't have much to do with that, but Joanne, whose legs were shaking, blurted out, "It was a daily dose of Campbell's soup." Obama smiled and said that he, too, likes Campbell's soup.
"I never met another president face-to-face," said Mohr, whose White House visit was arranged through the offices of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. "He's done good. We have had no Depression."
But out of the blue, Mohr suddenly thought about his wife of 72 years and started to cry. "I miss Josie," he said, as his son and daughter quickly tried to comfort him. "I miss that girl every day."
"She's an angel on your shoulder, dude," Rick said.
"If Mom was here, you know what would she say?" Joanne asked her dad. "She'd say, 'Don't be a crybaby or I'll kick you in the butt, Bill Mohr!'" Her father stopped crying, remembering how his wife could always humor him out of sadness.
Mohr's emotional roller coaster was understandable because meeting Obama was the second time in a whirlwind week that the old sergeant's quiet private life was interrupted by public excitement.
The first time was when he showed up on Election Day at Upper Moreland High School to vote and became an instant celebrity for poll officials and fellow voters.
"If you're going to be a citizen, you have to take part and vote," he told them. "So many soldiers died for our freedom."
Election inspectors Roger Wolfman and Collin Murphy helped Mohr sign in and then, when he emerged from the voting booth, joined people waiting in line to give him a round of applause.
Mohr split his ballot, voting for Hillary Clinton and for State Rep. Thomas Murt, a Republican, after Joanne reminded him that Murt "is the man who comes by and has soup with you."
The two met and bonded years ago because Murt, a veteran who served in Iraq, is a history buff, and Mohr is living history.
"Tell the president I was asking for him," Murt told Mohr last week, wishing him well on his White House journey. "Tell him to come to Hatboro sometime." But Mohr never got the chance to talk Hatboro with Obama, only soup.
The old soldier's mild-mannered smile hides the fact that he's overcome a lifetime of obstacles that would have felled a weaker man. Mohr has had a severe speech impediment and difficulty swallowing since he was a toddler, when the ligaments of his tongue were permanently damaged during a botched procedure to lance an infected gland.
When Mohr was 3, his dad, a lithographer, was pulled into and fatally crushed by a printing press. His mother, unable to provide for her children, sent Mohr and his twin brother, Joe, to a Philadelphia orphanage, where they lived for five years until she remarried and was able to bring them home.
After Pearl Harbor was attacked, Mohr served as an artillery operator attached to the 45th Infantry Division, fighting in Italy and Germany until, on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge, a misfired mortar severely injured his spine.
"I think they cut out five discs," Mohr said. "Whatever they did, I tell you what, they took the pain out of my back." He spent two years in rehabilitation before he was able to walk again.
A machinist by trade, Mohr built his two-bedroom bungalow in 1948. He and Josephine raised three sons and a daughter there. A black-and-white wedding portrait – Josephine looking radiant in a white gown, Mohr smiling in his Army uniform – dominates the living room, where he gazes at it every day.
"Josie would never let me smoke in the house," he said fondly. Dick Comly, who has lived across the street for nearly 50 years, said, "I don't blame his old lady because Bill smoked those 10-cent cigars and they stunk. So he would go out in his truck and sit there smoking with the windows rolled up. I'd see him in those clouds of smoke, and tell him, 'Bill, roll down the windows. You're going to die in there.' "
Mohr survived World War II and toxic cigars but today his failing circulation is his biggest enemy and keeps him in pain. Phil Moran, a retired attorney from Buckingham, Bucks County, raised $1,000 and bought him a motorized lift chair that lowers the backrest while raising the footrest so Mohr's legs are higher than his heart.
But to save his legs, Mohr needs sessions in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and other expensive medical care that his family can't afford.
Moran, a veteran from a family of veterans, recently started a GoFundMe page and has raised $3,300 towards the $50,000 goal. "How could I turn away from Bill?" he said. "How could any American turn away?"