Marcus Hook resident Charles Hembree, last Friday, was shocked when members of Borough Council, neighbors, police officers and local children riding bicycles stopped to wish him a happy 100th birthday.
Hembree is very well known in the borough and is lovingly called “the bike man.”
“I was very surprised,” Hembree said. “It was just wonderful. I wish I would have known they were coming so I could have had a cold drink or snacks for them. I didn’t think that many people even thought that much about me.”
Born in Caryville, Tennessee on Aug. 18, 1917, Hembree was one of eight children raised in a close, Christian home.
“Our dad was a preacher,” Hembree said. “We were taught that religion was important.”
Hembree served in the military from 1939 to 1941 before he moved to Marcus Hook. He worked at Sinclair Oil for 18 months then took a job at the Sun Oil Refinery in the accounting department, where he worked for the next 39 years.
Known lovingly by borough residents as “the bike man,” Hembree touched the lives of countless individuals by fixing their bicycles.
“My dad often got parts for my bike from Mr. Hembree,” said Marcus Hook Councilman Joe Flynn. “He is very well known in these parts for not only being the best bicycle repair guy, but for being honest.”
Hembree, who is the father of four children, said he began repairing and selling bicycles in 1959 as a hobby. He said his son came home one day and asked for a bike.
“I went to the junk yard and picked up some parts,” Hembree said. “I am self taught, and I guess it just came natural to me. I really enjoyed working in my workshop.”
Hembree said it was just last year, at the age of 99; that he retired.
His younger brother, Fred, with whom he lives, said Charles enjoys just sitting in his workshop and, of course, being around the bicycles.
Another wonderful surprise for his birthday included visits from his sister, Mabel Torres, who lives in Tennessee, and his sister, Jean Jarvis, and her daughter Marla, who are from Northern Virginia.
Hembree said the key for his longevity is simple.
“I tried to live my life the right way and treat everybody the way I want to be treated,” he said. “I’d also like to say that I love Marcus Hook. It’s been a great place to live all these years.”