Within sight of 100 years of age, 3 "always" voters say who they like, and why

Edith Kutcher, who will soon celebrate her 100th birthday, reads a poem in the library of KleinLife in Northeast Philadelphia.

STARTING WITH Franklin Delano Roosevelt's in 1936, each has voted in 20 presidential elections.

In their collective 297 years, they've developed a great love for their imperfect country and a dedication to their democracy, which they express by voting.

They have survived, and thrived, through economic depressions, two world wars, prohibition, marijuana legalization, segregation, gay marriage and public disrespect of their national anthem.

There are a couple hundred centenarians on Philadelphia's active voter rolls, but I couldn't find any able and willing to talk, so I turned to Edith Kutcher, Leon Salosky and David Weissman. Each is 99, but they are so close to the century mark, they can smell the birthday cake.

All will vote this year, as they always have. What's your excuse not to?

As a matter of fact, Weissman has already voted, using an absentee ballot. He cast his vote for Hillary Clinton.

"If Hillary wasn't running," says the South Philadelphia native, "I would be voting for whoever runs against him because I can't stand him." The "him" is Donald Trump.

On that, the three senior citizens agreed, and they didn't mind saying so.

"He will not be there for us," says Kutcher. "He is there not for America; he's there for himself and for what he can gain out of it."

She is not for Hillary alone. "I am hoping she will have the sense to give her husband a voice in her administration," she says. She's a big fan of the former president.

All three get their news from the Inquirer in print, with Salosky also watching CNN and Weissman watching CNN and "ABC once in a while. I'm not much on television except for news sources."

Salosky and Weissman live in Paul's Run, an assisted living community in the Bustleton section of the Northeast. Weissman lives there with his wife, Betty, 97. Salosky, a widower who was raised in Kensington, moved in about three years ago on the advice of his children and loves it.

A West Philadelphia native, Kutcher still works - Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to noon, as a volunteer librarian at KleinLife, formerly the Klein Jewish Community Center in Somerton. It is nonsectarian and provides a wide range of social, educational, wellness and cultural services for the community. As a volunteer, she gets no salary, but "they pay for my lunch. I don't have to pay the $1," she says with a wink.

Kutcher uses a walker, as does Weissman, but while their bodies have weakened and their hair has turned to silver, all three are blessed with good memories and sharp minds.

A retired stenographer who worked for the Defense Industrial Supply Center on Robbins Avenue, Kutcher is well-suited to the library. She has a lifelong love of books, especially poetry, of which she writes some herself.

A master storyteller, Weissman spent most of his career as a watchmaker. He was not drafted in World War II because he was a toolmaker at the Navy Yard at that time. The government considered his skill essential to the war effort.

When Salosky was drafted into the Army in 1943, he was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division. He arrived in Europe just in time for the murderous Nazi counterattack known as the Battle of the Bulge. He was seriously wounded when a mortar shell exploded near him - he has no memory of that or what followed - and spent seven months in the hospital. He was released from service on the third anniversary of his induction date. His rank, he says proudly, was private first class.

Trump's appeal to veterans bounces off Salosky: "I think he's real bad, I think he's sick, and I'll be glad when all of this is over." Salosky will vote for Clinton, he says, even though "she doesn't appear to be honest."

Salosky didn't graduate from Northeast High and spent his working life selling men's clothing, but always felt "I was in the wrong work." He regrets not taking advantage of the GI Bill to study for a better career. "I wish I had."

Salosky says he's never been ashamed of his country, but Weissman has been. "Many times," he says. He points to "the treatment of minorities sometimes."

Kutcher has "issues with a criminal-justice system that is not completely fair" and believes former state Attorney General Kathleen Kane was railroaded.

When I mention Kane was convicted of perjury, Kutcher shakes it off: "I don't think many judges are righteous about what they do."

In her lifetime, America's "worst moment" was "when the tower went down on 9/11." It was worse than Pearl Harbor because "I was living it." She was on a cruise, and the ship had to remain at sea for a week. Food had to be delivered by helicopter, she says.

Salosky says America's worst moment was World War II, "but we had a good cause to fight for."

Weissman's choice of a worst moment surprises me: The U.S. dropping atomic bombs on Japan. "I was very frightened. I thought someday somebody could use it against us," he says.

Issues that concern Salosky are the economy, civil rights and jobs. Kutcher says she has many issues, including protecting Social Security.

They all agree the current election is the most divisive in their memory, and they all fault Trump.

They also agree millennials are smart, but "they don't know enough about America," says Kutcher. "They have it made," says Weissman, probably thinking of some of the hard times he lived through.

They all strongly believe in the value of voting to voice their opinion, to be heard.

Like my three new friends, I've never missed an election, even though my seniority doesn't go as far back as theirs.

Voting is many things - a duty, a responsibility and, most important, a right.

To me, and them, to not vote is un-American.

stubyko@phillynews.com