- Associated Press - Monday, March 13, 2017

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) - Like clockwork, John L. Noble of Greentown hops in his car and drives to Markland Mall every day.

From 10 a.m. until about 2 p.m., he is visited by mall employees and friends as he congregates in his favorite sitting area just outside the Target store.

It’s very rare that he misses a day, which is special, since Noble turned 101 years old on Friday.

“I try to come back every day,” Noble said. “I don’t miss too many.”

Since he’s such a regular, his friends at the mall threw him a birthday party. It’s the second birthday party he has had there since starting his walking trips in 2004 shortly after his wife passed away. It was Noble’s way to fill a void of loneliness, he said, but he never expected that just by walking around the mall he would develop long-lasting relationships.

“I see him out here every time I come,” said Dave Sprong. “He’s here. You can count on him every day.”

And every day, Noble gathers with friends like Sprong, who he met several years ago, at the same spot - a group of couches just beyond the mall entrance to Target.

“He’s dependable,” Sprong said. “He never misses a day. He comes on days when the weather is so bad I wouldn’t even want to get out of the house, and he’s 100 years old.”

On his visits to the mall, Noble entertains conversations with people he has grown close to over the years, and they talk just about anything. Politics, the economy, you name it.

“Anything that comes up, right, John,” Sprong said while sitting next to his friend in their normal meeting area.

“This is the home front,” Sprong added, and also the area where Noble has celebrated his birthday for the last two years.

Surrounded by friends, cake and birthday decorations, Noble sat relaxed in his normal spot as friends and passersby extolled such a momentous occasion.

“Markland Mall values our mall walkers like John who join us every morning to exercise in a comfortable, climate-controlled environment,” said John Campbell, General Manager at Markland Mall, in a written statement. “It was an honor for us to share John’s special day with him and his friends.”

Noble doesn’t walk as much as he used to around the mall after all these years, but he still pushes to get to his favorite sitting area each day. The 38-year Continental Steel retiree and father of two says it’s what keeps him going at his age.

“If he stayed at home and sat in a chair, he wouldn’t be living,” Sprong said. “That’s the way I feel about it. Getting out amongst the people, that’s what keeps him going. And he looks forward to this every day, and seeing everybody that he sees every day. He really enjoys it.”

And now that Noble has made it to his 101st birthday, his friends at the mall hope to see him keep going for years to come.

___

Information from: Kokomo Tribune, https://www.ktonline.com

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