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Mayor almost as old as 107-year-old city

SHARE Mayor almost as old as 107-year-old city

PITTSBURGH — June Austin isn't much younger than the 107-year-old borough he oversees, but the centenarian said he feels like a sprightly 65.

"I don't know what all the fuss is about, really," said Austin, the mayor of Oakdale, near Pittsburgh, who turned 100 on Sunday. "I'm still able to get around."

On Saturday he was the guest of honor at one big hootenanny of a birthday bash thrown by many of the borough's 1,700 residents who appreciate his public service as well as his longevity.

"He does a really good job as far as public relations goes, getting around and talking to people," said Mark Verton, an Oakdale paramedic and Austin's neighbor. "Everybody enjoys listening to his stories about the way things were in the past."

Austin was born Alexander B. Austin Jr. on July 16, 1900. The Austinville, Va., native grew up answering to Junior, so he shortened it to June.

He came to the Pittsburgh area to work at Westinghouse during World War I. Instead, he chose a career as a conductor with the Pennsylvania Railroad and in 1936 settled in the Oakdale area, near what would become Pittsburgh International Airport.

He said he met Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who traveled in a special car designed to accommodate his wheelchair. Austin said he also once lunched with Harry Truman.

"That Harry Truman, he was a nice one. He was a farmer boy," Austin said.

He also met Arthur Godfrey, Jimmy Dean and Bing Crosby and particularly doted on World War II soldiers off to battle.

"I talked to many of those boys going off to the service. Some didn't come back. I often wondered what happened to them," Austin said.

He retired from the railroad in 1966. He and his wife Emma spent their days fishing, canoeing and boating until her death in 1987, leaving Austin to pursue those hobbies alone or with friends.

Then in 1994, Oakdale Council President Ron Gamble asked Austin to finish an unexpired term as mayor. Austin complied, then ran unopposed in 1995 and again last year.

Gamble, 67, has known Austin almost his whole life and said Austin was a logical choice for mayor.

"We're a small town, and we knew he had raised his family here. And, even at his age, he was an impeccable dresser and probably the most clean-cut guy ever to come through Oakdale," Gamble said.

Austin attributed his longevity to healthy, stress-free living. He said his parents lived into their 90s and his grandfather lived to be 108 years old.

"I've got 2 1/2 years to serve in my second term," he said. "After that, I think maybe they'll get a younger man."