A Texas man will experience his 13th solar eclipse at the age of 105


In 1963, LaVerne Biser and his family climbed into an Oldsmobile station wagon and drove nearly 2,000 miles from Texas to Maine to watch their first solar eclipse.

“The car was loaded with luggage and a lot of my camera equipment because I wanted to get the perfect picture of the solar eclipse during our big adventure,” said Biser, who was 45 at the time.

After that trip, Biser said, he knew he would put thousands more miles on his car.

“That one eclipse was all it took,” he said. “I saw one and had to see them all. I was addicted.”

Over the next six decades, he observed eleven more solar eclipses, traveling from New Mexico to the Black Sea to get the perfect view.

Now Biser, 105, hopes for one last moment in the shadow of the moon. This weekend, one of his granddaughters will drive him from Fort Worth to his daughter's home in Plano, Texas, so he can witness his 13th solar eclipse – the last total solar eclipse visible in the United States in 20 years.

“I probably won’t be there at the next event,” said Biser, whose birthday is in June. “So I'm hoping the weather holds up long enough for me to see this one. I pray for clear weather.”

He said he was making the hour-long drive from Fort Worth to Plano because the eclipse there will be total for another minute, meaning the sun will be completely blocked.

“For someone who loves eclipses, this is a big deal,” he said.

Cloudy skies are forecast across much of the country for Monday's solar eclipse, but at Biser's age, he's used to beating the odds.

“Crazy living is my secret,” said Biser, who recently told his story to the Dallas Morning News. “I've never had a sip of alcohol or a puff of smoke – just a lot of chocolate milk every day. And I’m still curious and like to have fun.”

Biser gave up driving a few years ago and has had a carer since his wife Marion Biser died last year. He still enjoys tinkering with his homemade telescopes and marveling at the night sky, he said.

“Many modern children in big cities have never seen a starry sky,” said Biser. “Children today know nothing about the Big Dipper and the North Star. Growing up, I was always lucky enough to be able to see the Milky Way every night.”

Biser said he grew up on a farm in Ohio, where he spent time outdoors with his two brothers and developed an appreciation for science and nature.

After graduating from Ohio State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, he designed aircraft for more than four decades at Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth.

He and his wife often took their three children on long summer trips, stopping at historical landmarks along the way. Biser's daughter, Carol Biser Barlow, said she visited 49 states by the time she graduated from high school.

Barlow, who will greet her father in Plano this weekend, said she particularly remembers the long trip to Maine when she was 16.

“We drove straight north from Texas, crossed the border into Canada and then came back into the U.S.,” she said. “My father loved to travel and was so impressed by this eclipse that he made it a goal to include as many eclipses as possible in his vacation itinerary.”

Barlow, 76, recalled planning her wedding around the 1972 solar eclipse.

“I told my parents about two possible dates for my wedding – one on June 3 and one on July 8,” she said. “My father said, 'If you want me to give you away, you have to choose the earlier date. “I won’t be here on July 8th. “He had to catch a solar eclipse.”

Biser has watched solar eclipses everywhere from Nebraska to Brazil, but he said his favorite trip was one he took with several friends to Williston, North Dakota, in 1979.

“I was able to document it perfectly even though I had my camera pointed at a black sky,” he said. “Safety always comes first to prevent eye injuries. I was really excited when I saw that my aim was good and I was able to capture the eclipse in its entirety.”

On Monday, he said, he will be ready to take more photos and enjoy every phase of the rare celestial event.

“It’s really special — there’s nothing more beautiful than that dark sky in the middle of the day,” Biser said. “I always feel like a happy man when I see it. It reminds me that no matter where you are in life, we are all just a small speck in the universe.”