IMAGE: Ernest Pusey, Gov. Jeb Bush
Steve Nesius  /  AP
Florida Gov. Jeb Bush presents veteran Ernest Pusey with a World War I service medal during a visit to his home Nov. 10 in Bradenton, Fla. The 111-year-old veteran served in the U.S. Navy from 1917 to 1919 aboard the battleship USS Wyoming.
updated 11/23/2006 11:32:06 PM ET 2006-11-24T04:32:06

Ernest Charles Pusey, one of the nation's longest-living World War I veterans, died a little over a week after he was honored with a medal for his service to the country, family members said. He was 111.

Pusey's death Sunday left fewer than 25 living U.S. veterans of World War I out of nearly 5 million who served, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"I was deeply saddened to learn that Mr. Pusey had passed away. It was my privilege to meet with him," Gov. Jeb Bush said in a news release. "We should not forget him, and other veterans, who sacrificed so much for this country."

The governor had presented Pusey with a World War I Victory Medal on Nov. 10, the day before Veteran's Day. Pusey didn't recall receiving a medal after the war, and nobody could find any evidence that he had.

During the ceremony at Pusey's trailer, the veteran talked to Bush about his time on the USS Wyoming during the war, and "stopping at different cities out there."

A black-and-white photo of the battleship hung on the wall of his trailer near a framed letter of congratulations from President Bush, and the president's brother added the glass-encased medal to a table near Pusey's recliner.

Pusey was born in 1895 in Washington. He joined the Navy in 1917 and spent much of the war patrolling the sea lanes around the British Isles.

He later worked for General Motors in Flint, Mich., before moving to Florida in 1960. He tried living in a nursing home but preferred living in his trailer with the help of a caretaker. He loved fishing and going out for a scallop dinner on Sundays, his family said.

Pusey's longevity was a marvel to many.

"I don't know if he had a secret," grandson Craig Pusey said. "If he did, he never told anyone."

Pusey is survived by a daughter-in-law, four grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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