Banta man fought in WWII jungles, turns 100
by Sam Matthews
Jun 29, 2014 | 2580 views | 2 2 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
“I’ve had a really good life — so far,” Al Emhoff said with a faint smile. “And I’m still going.”

The longtime Banta-area resident and community leader has reason to smile: He has just tuned 100 years old, and according to him, “I’m taking it one day at a time.”

Emhoff, whose 100th birthday was June 9, was feted at a gathering of family and friends at The Commons, a Manteca care facility, where he has resided for the past six months.

His wife, Gilda, 92, still lives at the family home on California Avenue north of Banta, but Emhoff’s knees have given out and he can’t get around with a walker anymore, so he made the move to the care facility, where wheelchair assistance is provided.

Albert B. “Al” Emhoff Jr. was born June 9, 1914, in San Francisco. He moved to the Banta farm with his family as a young boy. He attended Banta School and Tracy High School and then went into farming, mostly raising alfalfa hay, with his father, Albert Emhoff Sr.

During World War II, the younger Emhoff served 4½ years in the Army. He was a sergeant in the 41st Infantry Division on New Guinea.

“I’m proud I served in the Army 4½ years,” he said. “Combat in the jungles of New Guinea wasn’t easy duty.”

After the war, Emhoff returned to Banta, where he and his father started a hog-raising operation, providing many of the hogs to medical laboratories. He continued baling hay well into his 80s.

Public service has long been Emhoff’s hallmark. He was a trustee of the Banta Elementary School District for 36 years, receiving the “Golden Bell” for his service to education — and he was a director and volunteer firefighter with the Tracy Rural Fire Protection District for 30 years.

For a decade, Emhoff was an animal-project leader for the Banta 4-H Club. For seven years, he was a director of the Mutual Water Co.

He played baseball and softball with Banta teams and was manager of the legendary Banta Signal Oilers softball team.

For 15 years, Emhoff served on the Tracy District Recreation Commission. He coached a Banta youth baseball team for 10 years.

A charter member of the Tracy Sports Hall of Fame Committee and a member of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wears, he has been a member of St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, serving on the parish council. In 1991, Al and Gilda Emhoff were named Tracy Family of the Year, and six years later, in 1997, Albert J. Emhoff Park was dedicated in Tracy’s Greystone subdivision at 1407 Jonathan Place.

The Emhoffs have two children, Nancy Hernandez, who is helping her mother at the family home in Banta, and Robert Emhoff, who lives in LaVerne in Southern California. There are three grandchildren and two-grandchildren.

Asked what he felt were the reasons he had been able to reach the century mark, he answered, “I didn’t get a scratch in combat in the Army, and I’ve been pretty lucky with my health.”

At 100 years old, Emhoff’s level of activity has been reduced in recent years, and he doesn’t get around without a wheelchair, but at least a measure of luck with his health keeps him “still going.”

• Contact Sam Matthews at or 830-4234.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
June 30, 2014
You will keep on going too!! This is wonderful! If I remember correctly, he was Santa Claus when I went to Banta School! I loved meeting Santa! What a great man and keep the years coming!

Lori M.
June 29, 2014
Thank you for your service to our country Mr. Emhoff, and for being such an asset to your community during your first century. Here's to your continued good health, and more birthdays to come.

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