A short chat about a long life

Lucas Dargan Photo by Samantha Lyles

Lucas Dargan
Photo by Samantha Lyles

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Mr. Lucas Dargan of Darlington recently celebrated his 98th birthday with a lively party at his South Charleston Road home, but he took a moment away from the revels to sit down with us and share a few recollections from his exceptional life.

“I was born in the house right across the road, and my father died when I was about a year and a half old. We moved to town when I was three years old, so I grew up in Darlington,” says Lucas.

He says that while his mother held onto the family farm and his brother farmed it, he had a different path in mind.
“I decided when I was in fifth grade that I was going to be a forester,” he says, and he followed that dream to college at North Carolina State – but only because Clemson University didn’t have a forestry program at the time. He then switched over to study wildlife management at Utah State.

“I had never been out of North and South Carolina until I took off for Utah,” says Lucas.

After graduation, he spent time researching wildlife in the rugged, beautiful wilds of western Colorado, and then moved on to Maryland and a job with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Shortly thereafter, Dargan enlisted in the Navy and became “a tin can sailor” on a destroyer.

“A destroyer has no armor,” Lucas explains. “We used to say that a destroyer’s armor is supposed to keep out water and small fish – a large fish being a torpedo.”

Dargan served 37 months of sea duty and spent the last months of World War II putting destroyers into mothballs in Norfolk, Virginia.

“We had to keep them in good condition because we were thinking we might have to use them against the Russians,” he says.
He returned briefly to his job in Maryland, but found the far-future aspect of research work unsatisfying.

“I said I didn’t want to be working on something that won’t be used in the field for fifty years. I want to see the improvement next year,” says Dargan, who went into more hands-on consulting work for farmers and landowners.

Lucas estimates he planted over a million pine trees within the first five years of his consulting career, which he stuck with until his retirement four years ago.

Dargan now lives in a home built by his uncle around 1904, and though he walks with a cane, he gets around pretty well. Daily life is eased and brightened by his housemate Lois, one of his four daughters.

“She’s in charge of this house now, and I’m very fortunate to have her,” says Lucas.

Asked about his all-girl offspring, Dargan gives a smile and a little laugh.

“We were always looking for a boy, but I’ve never seen a boy I’d trade for one of my girls,” he says. “We raised four girls and our first four grandchildren were boys – and there’s a big difference, I’ll tell you that!”

Dargan admits that he never expected to live to see his 98th birthday and says he doesn’t have a secret formula for longevity, but as you might expect from a country gentleman with close ties to the land, his advice for staying healthy is pretty simple.
“Eat lots of locally grown fruits and vegetables,” he says.

The News and Press also had the chance to chat with fellow senior “Junie” James, who celebrated his 99th birthday. We’ll bring you some of that conversation next week.

Author: Jana Pye

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