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Lessons from a 109-year-old Kansas City man inspire 'The Book Of Charlie'

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Dr. Charlie White, once the neighbor of author David Von Drehle, lived to be 109 years old.
David Von Drehle
Dr. Charlie White, once the neighbor of author David Von Drehle, lived to be 109 years old.

Washington Post opinion columnist David Von Drehle's newest nonfiction book, "The Book of Charlie," highlights the life of his former neighbor in Kansas City: Dr. Charlie White, who lived to the age of 109.

Washington Post deputy opinion editor David Von Drehle, who lives in the Kansas City area, has written books about Abraham Lincoln, capital punishment and a deadly factory fire.

Now he's published a book about something closer to home: "The Book of Charlie," about his neighbor who lived to the age of 109.

Dr. Charlie White was alive for the inventions of both the radio and the smartphone, and lived directly across the street from Von Drehle and his family in Mission Hills, Kansas.

Von Drehle met White in 2007, when he was 102. White died in 2014.

On KCUR's Up To Date, Von Drehle explained that White always said he didn't know the secrets to happiness or to a long life. Instead, White lived by a core principle his mother instilled in him — to do the right thing.

"What I ultimately came to realize in doing this book is that the simple truths are simple because they're true," Von Drehle said. "They get distilled because they work, because they are the answer to life and joy. Spread joy. Observe miracles. Take risks. Fail sometimes. All these things, they sound like, you know, Facebook memes, but when you put them together and put one foot in front of the other, whether your life is long or short, these are the answers."

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