'Certainly Not Rigorous Exercise': Son Reveals Dad's Secrets to Turning 104

Ahead of his 104th birthday next week, Gerald Mills has managed to do something most a fraction of his age long for: go viral. His son spoke to Newsweek about his father and his life.

Mills' son Kevin, both from England, made his father somewhat of a birthday celebrity and showed the world "a 100 percent positive side of social media" while doing it.

Taking to Twitter, Kevin Mills asked his followers to send some birthday cheer to his dad, telling Newsweek he expected maybe ten would reply. Gerald Mills received over 400,000 likes and thousands of messages from across the world.

"This is my dad, Gerald. He turns 104 on July 12. Any chance I can muster 104 happy birthdays from Twitter? He'll be amazed and baffled in equal measure," he tweeted, along with a picture of his dad.

In the space of a few days, Gerald Mills became an internet celebrity and gained well wishes from even real-life ones too. Fox News' Janice Dean and actor Mark Hamill took time out of their day to send their public support.

"Dad's at an age where there's nothing he wants or needs that can be bought with money. So I thought something like a bunch of congratulatory messages from a few random strangers would be a bit fun and different. I reckoned maybe 10 or 20 of my followers would respond. I could screengrab the tweets and print them out on a few pages of A4," Kevin Mills told Newsweek.

"Of course, that idea soon became impractical. People were wishing dad a happy birthday in their hundreds, their thousands and their tens of thousands. With simple greetings, funny comments, and messages saying how good he looked for his age."

Gerald Mills spent most of his life in Bournemouth, England, but also served with an anti-tank regiment in Italy and North Africa. In his retirement, he taught art at village halls and adult education centers, after spending some years after the war as a technical illustrator for local aircraft companies.

"Many people on Twitter asked what his 'secret' was. Thinking of my dad, it's certainly not rigorous exercise, a meat-free diet, abstaining from alcohol or never having smoked (he quit in the 1950s).

"He puts it down to a number of factors: retaining his independence, having a close and supportive family, a positive outlook and an unfailing sense of humor. He tries to see the funny side of most things, enjoys a joke and is still not too old to be politely flirtatious," Kevin Mills said.

Along with embracing his new-found online fame, Gerard Mills will be celebrating his birthday on the actual day with a visit from one of his other sons with "cards, cake, a little wine and a lot of laughter."

"My father's reaction has been one of astonishment and gratitude. He told me this in an email because I haven't been able to see him in person thanks to me testing positive for COVID. When I get the chance, I can't wait to show him some of some of the tweets to give him a sense of the scale of the global reaction," Kevin Mills told Newsweek.

"Whether my dad will have heard of any of the celebrities who've wished him happy birthday remains to be seen..." he joked.