America’s Oldest World War II Vet Is Celebrating His 111th Birthday
With Lawrence Brooks’ annual bash canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, The National World War II Museum is asking well-wishers to send birthday cards.
Lawrence Brooks, who is set to turn 111 on September 12, is believed to be the United States’ oldest living World War II veteran.
The supercentenarian has been celebrating his birthdays at The National WWII Museum in his native New Orleans since 2014. Sadly, this year, the coronavirus pandemic has forced the museum to take a different approach to the annual bash.
In lieu of cupcakes and kisses from the museum's vocal trio, The Victory Belles, the museum is asking well-wishers to send Brooks birthday cards via mail. On his birthday, museum staff will deliver the cards to Brooks' home, and The Victory Belles will serenade him from a safe distance.
"We just thought there has to be some way that we can still celebrate him in a way that is safe but also gets more people involved," museum spokesperson Amber Mitchell told CNN. "If we aren't able to gather in ways that we're used to, we can always invent new ways to connect or rediscover old ways, like you would with a birthday card."
Born in Norwood, Louisiana, on September 12, 1909, Brooks served in the predominantly Black 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and then the Philippines during World War II. According to the museum, he was a servant to three white officers in his battalion and attained the rank of Private 1st Class during the war.
After the war, Brooks worked as a forklift operator before retiring at age 70. He has five children, five stepchildren, 13 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren. His second wife Leona died shortly after they were evacuated by helicopter following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He's been a widower ever since.
He credits his good health with long walks and chewing gum, a habit he used to replace cigarettes.
“I’ve started to think about not having many birthdays left. But I’m not worried about it, because God has let me live this long already," Brooks told Fox News last year. “I think it’s because I’ve always liked people so much. Oh yes, I do.”
To join this year’s celebration, send a card to:
The National WWII Museum
c/o Happy 111th Mr. Brooks!
945 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70130