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Mashpee Wampanoag Chief turns 100: 'I find life pretty good'

Vernon “Silent Drum” Lopez was born in Mashpee, served with the Army in Normandy, and was raised as tribal chief 24 years ago. He'll retire this year.

MASHPEE—Vernon “Silent Drum” Lopez turned 100 on Thursday, two months after the Mashpee Wampanoag chief announced his retirement.

A parade of children and tribal leaders marched along Meetinghouse Road to their chief's home, where he sat outside and smiled.

Born in Mashpee, Lopez served with the Army in Normandy on D-Day, and was raised as tribal chief 24 years ago. He ate bacon and eggs for breakfast on Thursday, and at noon enjoyed a slice of cake with his daughter.

"I don't know if Silent Drum is the oldest chief in the country," tribal member Paula Peters told CAI. "But I know that we're incredibly proud and lucky. He's just so sharp and so full of knowledge about our history, and has been so committed to providing leadership to the people in a traditional way."

Lopez in April said he would step down later this year. The tribe plans to raise an active chief by fall, though Peters said "we'll always be considering him our chief."

"I find life pretty good," Lopez told CAI. "Whatever I feel I have to do, I do. I take it as I find it in the morning, and from there on it's God's will."

Patrick Flanary is a dad, journalist, and host of Morning Edition.