Lawrence Brooks, oldest World War II Veteran in the United States, celebrated the 112th anniversary of his birth on Sept. 12, with a party outside his New Orleans house that featured a parade, two brass bands, and his favourite chocolate cake.
Brooks proudly rose from his wheelchair during the celebration that lasted an hour. Brooks danced. He smiled.
This is his third consecutive year as a supercentenarian (meaning age 110 or older).
“We tell him that Mr. Brooks: As long as you keep having Birthdays, we’re going back to throw your birthday parties,” Peter Crean of the National WWII Museum, New Orleans, stated.
Brooks had been hosting a birthday party for the past eight year, and the museum organized the event.
Crean said that Crean considers Crean a fixture in the museum as well as the community. “He’s a great human being, and inspires everyone he encounters.”
Brooks was one of 15 children born in Norwood, La. in 1909. He was drafted by the Army in 1940. He served in the predominantly Black 91st Engineer Battalion until 1945. The unit was stationed both in New Guinea, and the Philippines.
Brooks stated in a 2018 YouTube video, “We were building roads, bridges and aircraftstrips for airplanes to land.”
Brooks worked as an operator forklift until he retired in the 70s after the war.
Brooks is the beloved patriarch his family. Brooks has five children, 13 grand-children and 22 great grandchildren. Leona B. Brooks, Brooks’ wife, died in 2008.
Brooks and the National World War II Museum were first introduced to each other by a volunteer in 2013.
“He was turning 105 years old. Crean said that it was remarkable and suggested some celebrations.
“Mr. Brooks represents a generation who saved the world as we know it. Crean said Brooks was one 16 million Americans who did their part to help his country and make the world a better. “He’s important to this country, to this museum, to this city.
Brooks began to have birthday parties every year, which were organized by staff. Brooks is celebrated each year at the museum. This ceremony is followed by sweet treats and music.
Brooks’s traditional birthday celebrations were cancelled last year after the pandemic.
Instead, the museum organized a drive-by parade outside his house, where he lives together with his daughter. The museum also wanted to collect birthday notes, and over 21,000 were sent in from all around the world.
Brooks was celebrating his 112th birthday with a party at the museum in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Brooks’ first use of a wheelchair was at the celebration this year. Every year, he used a cane to walk.
Crean said “He’s starting to slow down,” adding that Brooks remained in Veterans Affairs Hospital throughout the hurricane to ensure he would be able to get electricity and air conditioning. Still, “he remains in remarkable shape for 112. He is energetic.”
The Victory Belles, a local singer trio, performed at the party. Brooks hosted a party on Brooks’s lawn. Brooks invited neighbors, community members, veterans, and others to join them. There were dozens of cars lined with decorated signs reading “Happy birthday Mr. Brooks.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards D tweeted: “Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks America’s oldest living World War II vet and a proud Louisianan,” with a photo of them together.
Brooks is recognized in his community for not only his military service but also his kindness.
Brooks told National Geographic in 2020 that his mother and father raised him to love people.
Crean, the supercentenarian, says that his secret to living a long and happy life is to “be kind to people”.