Happy 98th to WWII vet Harold Lynn

Harold Lynn rattles off his list: two kids, six grandchildren and — “are you sitting down? — 22 great-grandchildren.”

Lynn, of Palm Beach, turns 98 on March 20.

A Coast Guard seaman in World War II, for four years he was stationed on a troop transport with hotelier Conrad Hilton at the helm.

When he went into the service at age 23, he’d been married a year. “I got a freebie,” he recalls: “My son was born while I was on a ship, so the government paid for the birth.”

Now that son, Richard, is a 71-year-old retired Palm Beach physician, and his daughter, Sandy Chessman, a Boca Raton nurse, is 66.

Harold spent the war years shuttling troops to Italy, India and the Philippines, with all the crazy unpredictability the war could muster. At one point the ship was on its way to the South Pacific, then got redirected to Boston and when it got there, the orders changed to Calcutta. “It was a madhouse.”

Hilton, he says, was “the most wonderful captain.” Hilton already was in the hotel business at that point, and Lynn recalls that, while they were on liberty one day in New York, he invited the crew to his hotel for dinner. “A hell of a nice guy.”

Lynn, originally from Brooklyn, was born in 1919. During the depression his family was homeless and lived on the street, he recalls. His father was a musician, and when the economy collapsed, the family lost its money and house. Eventually they moved in with Lynn’s grandfather.

Lynn left the service at age 27, in 1946. He spent a year at New  York University and then went into the travel business. He owned two Long Island travel agencies, in Cedarhurst and Lido Beach.

These days, long retired, he takes morning walks for exercise. The 97-year-old gave up tennis this past summer. “It was very hot.”

He’s looking forward to a celebration at synagogue this weekend in Palm Beach, and at his daughter’s club house in Boca on Monday.

He feels lucky to be alive, he says, especially since his mother died at 49 and his brother at 44. Lynn’s wife, Ruth, died 10 years ago, but he has “a lady friend,” Sue Deutsch.

He’s so old, he says, “In my building, they come over and touch me like I’m Moses.”