Class of 1941 graduate turns 100 years old

By BrenShavia Jordan | Broadcast Reporter

Dr. John S. Belew was a Baylor chemistry major 80 years ago. Belew, who went on to teach that same subject at his alma mater until his retirement almost 30 years ago, celebrated 10 decades of life Tuesday, November 3.

Belew’s family planned to celebrate this milestone with an in-person 100th birthday party but, due to the pandemic, plans changed. Instead, he had a zoom party and received birthday wishes in the mail.

“Oh man, you should have been here,” Belew said. “[My son’s] family, my daughter and her family in San Antonio and then they have children in New York — we all had a party on Zoom.”

Although his birthday party was virtual, Belew expressed the love he felt from his Zoom party.

“[It] was even better,” Belew said.

He received paintings, cards and handwritten notes. One special note came from his grandson in New York, who expressed 100 reasons why he loved his grandpa and one of those reasons was, “I love when you hold my hand.”

Since being at Baylor in 1941, Belew witnessed many changes. During his time in undergrad, World War II had started and he expressed how Baylor was struggling financially. However, over time, the university began to progress and provide top of the line resources for students.

“Governor Neff was a no-nonsense man, but he stabilized the school both finically and otherwise,” Belew said.

Belew reflected on his fondest memory as a student, which was the freedom to spend time in the lab. As a chemistry major, he worked hard and stayed in the lab often. Belew became a chemistry professor in 1951 and spent 40 years in the field. He expressed his gratitude for the support he received at Baylor.

“They were very happy to support you in your teaching and in your research,” Belew said. “It was a happy combination for me, that’s what I wanted and I followed that the rest of my teaching career.”

Jay Belew, son of John, says he is honored to see his father healthy and enjoying life. Although, he does not have time to dwell on the sentimental emotions because they are always on the go.

“Dad’s just as active today as he was 30 years ago or forty years ago,” Jay said. “We are quite busy doing daily life, chores and activities.”

He finds joy seeing his dad take pleasure in everyday tasks.

“Every day is more joyful than the last with dad,” Jay said.

Jay says no one takes care of his father, but he is privileged to visit often since he lives close by.

“I would not categorize it as taking care of him,” Jay said. “He takes care of me just as much as I take care of him.”

At 100 years old, John S. Belew shares his secret — luck is what has kept him around so long.

“You cannot control whether you have an aneurism in the brain or anything in between,” John said. “You deal with what comes along. We have dealt with a few things but nothing serious.”

Happy 100th Birthday, Dr. John S. Belew!