Who is the man behind the mega-watt smile and twinkling eyes?

By Erin Hill
Updated February 22, 2016 01:10 PM
Credit: Courtesy Derek Schwendeman

A swoon-worthy picture of a man in uniform has captured the hearts of millions. But who is the mysterious man behind the mega-watt smile and twinkling eyes?

When Derek Schwendeman of Newark, Delaware, posted a photo of his grandfather to Reddit last week, he had no clue the now 86-year-old would draw a legion of admirers.

But the picture, which is captioned, “My grandfather in 1950 before deploying to Korea,” has amassed almost 3 million views and a variety of passionate comments.

“What a babe,” “Is he single?” “Your grandfather’s a hunk,” “Wow. I bet he broke a few hearts in his day,” “Where the hell is that time machine?!” a few comments read.

Schwendeman, 33, tells PEOPLE his grandfather Thomas is “genuinely amazed over all of the excitement over this single picture.”

But it’s Schwendeman’s grandmother, Fleecie, who is getting the biggest kick out of her husband’s “funny notoriety.”

“My grandmother says since they married young, he didn’t have much of a chance to ‘sow his wild oats.’ She told me that he has ‘women fussing over him all of the time, but she got him first.’ ” Schwendeman shares.

Thomas and Fleecie, who now live in Pennsylvania, got engaged just before Thomas left for basic training in April 1951, and they were married in October of that year after he completed basic training and Ranger School.

The newlyweds then moved into an apartment in Temple, Texas, where they lived until Thomas received orders for deployment to Korea in April 1952.

Upon returning home from his one-year deployment, the war veteran got a job with Bell Telephone Company. He retired from the company in 1983 and took a job with a local school district as a bus driver and a second job as a tour bus driver. He worked full-time with both companies before retiring in the mid-nineties.

“My grandfather is, and always was, a very hard-working man, and he passed that work ethic onto both my father and me,” says Schwendeman, who is the couple’s oldest grandchild.

“A man of few words, he taught me most of what I learned from him through his actions. He can repair just about anything and is patient and meticulous and never gives up until a job is completed up to his (very high!) standards. My grandmother calls him ‘Mr. Fix-it’ and says he ‘has always taken excellent care of our homes and, of course, the cars.’ ”

And his grandfather’s sense of devotion is just as strong when it comes to his 65-year marriage. The couple has three children and six grandchildren who all live locally – and make sure to visit often – Schwendeman shares.

The proud grandson adds that his grandparents, who are “happily married,” will become great-grandparents when Schwendeman and his wife Kiersten welcome their first child – a baby girl – next month.

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Schwedeman says that when his grandmother recently asked her husband if he would have lived his life any differently had he known that he was this attractive to other women, all she got was a mumbled “no.” He just wasn’t that kind of man. “He was always loyal and has taken very good care of me,” she says.