Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 20, 2018

Olds resident donated 50th gallon of blood before Christmas

The gift that keeps on giving
Dec 26, 2017
Photo by: Karyn Spory Ninety-year-old Olds resident, Harold Messer donated his 50th gallon of blood on Friday, Dec. 22. Messer began donating while he was in the Army in the 1940s. In the 70 years he’s been donating, Messer has saved 1,600 lives.

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


SWEDESBURG — The half dozen people at the Swedesburg Parish Hall were sitting on pins and needles Friday afternoon as they waited to hear if Harold Messer would be able to donate blood.

Messer, a 90-year-old resident of Olds, was set to donate his 50th gallon of blood on Friday, Dec. 22, making his donation a Christmas gift that would keep on giving.

“He’s been so excited,” said Susie Alexander, his caregiver. “This is the only thing he’s been talking about.”

“This is incredible,” said Alecia Pence, donor relations consultant, who said it’s very rare to have someone donate 50 gallons.

“When you come in an donate whole blood, that’s one pint, so it takes eight donations to make a gallon,” she explained. “If he’s able to today, this will be his 200th donation.”

Messer, a World War II veteran, began donating blood around 1945, when he was in the Army. “He’s been giving for 70 plus years,” Pence said in amazement.

The anticipation in the Parish Hall continued to grow as the crowd waited to see if Messer would be able to donate.

“He’s been so worried his iron level will be too low,” Alexander said to Pence.

“Well, has he been eating his liver and onions?” Pence jokingly said about the iron rich meal.

Soon enough, the Christmas carols playing in the background suddenly quieted as the spry 90-year-old rose from behind the privacy curtain. He extended his index finger toward the crowd, showing off his bandaged finger like a war medal. “I passed,” he said as a round of cheers and applause filled the hall.

Pence rushed up to Messer and congratulated him with a hug. “Did you know that you have impacted up to 1,600 lives?” she said to Messer.

Messer just shook his head and gave her another hug.

“I don’t believe it,” Messer eventually said when asked how it felt to have saved so many lives. “It’s my pleasure. They tell me (giving blood) saves lives and that’s what I’m out here for.”

Messer has A- blood type, meaning he can give to individuals with A-, A+, AB- and AB+.

As for giving 50 gallons, Messer said he felt “wonderful” about it. “Someone over in Davenport told me I’m the only one in Henry County, probably the only one in Iowa in that bracket,” he said. “When you stop and think, that’s quite an achievement too.”

For Stacy Speidel, seeing Messer give his 50th donation was something extraordinary. Speidel has been the blood drive coordinator for the Swedesburg Evangelical Church for the past year, but her involvement goes much deeper. “My son was really sick about two years ago and received a lot of blood due to his illness,” she said. “I see the importance and the impact this has on people’s lives and I thought this could be my way to help.”

Seeing Messer donate for the 200th time was quite emotional, said Speidel. “It’s quite an awesome thing to think he has given that long. This was his goal, to hit that 50th donation when he was 90. I know he’s been super excited about it and looking forward to achieving that milestone.”

Messer’s 50 gallon pin stayed tightly clutched in his hand as he posed for pictures with Pence and a sign celebrating his achievement.

Now that he’s reached 50 gallons, Messer has no plans of slowing down and says he’s looking forward to the next time he can donate. Pence said the next challenge is getting the younger generation ready to follow in Messer’s footsteps. One of the ways, Pence says, is by bringing blood donations into the digital age. “People our age want easy ways to get involved. They can get online, to to start signing up or they can download our app, Blood Center Impact.”

On the app, individuals can look up local blood drives and schedule their own donations. “It’s right there on your phone. It shows you all the information and even when you’re eligible next so it’s super convenient,” said Pence.

There’s also a program for local high school students called the Gallon Grad Program. The program encourages local students to give eight donations by the time they graduate high school. “Hopefully that will make them lifelong donors.”

Students can donate as early as age 16, with parental concent.

For more information on local blood drives, go to

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