Lawrence Brooks, the oldest United States veteran of World War II, has died. The New Orleans man was 112 years old.
Brooks passed away early Wednesday morning on January 5, 2022. Born on September 12, 1909, Brooks, 1 of 15 children, was drafted into the Army in 1940 at 31 years old. He helped build roads and bridges for the Allies and worked in mapmaking in the predominantly Black 91st Engineer Battalion.
In 1945, he was honorably discharged, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. He returned to New Orleans, where he worked as a forklift operator until he retired in 1979.
In a statement announcing the vet’s passing, Stephen J. Watson, president and CEO of the National WWII Museum, described Brooks as a man of great faith and “gentle spirit.”
“As the nation’s oldest known living veteran, he proudly served our country during World War II and returned home to serve his community and church,” Watson said. “His kindness, smile, and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him.”
State public figures reached out to share their condolences, including Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards who, alongside a photo of himself and Brooks wrote on Twitter, “I am sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America’s oldest World War II veteran, and a proud Louisianan.” He added, “I am thankful I had the chance to meet him and learn from his service.”
President Joe Biden shared a video on Twitter of him calling Brooks to wish him a happy Veterans Day last year shortly after the news broke. Brooks thanked Biden for the call, but the president reassured him it was he who should be saying thank you. “You’re one of the reasons this country is still free,” the politician reminded the veteran.
On Wednesday, the president tweeted that “was truly the best of America.”
During an oral history interview with the museum, Brooks talked about his perspective on life, telling the museum, “I don’t have no hard feelings toward nobody.” He added, “I just want everything to be lovely, to come out right. I want people to have fun and enjoy themselves — be happy and not sad.”
For his 112th birthday, Pete Crean, vice president of education and access at the museum in New Orleans, organized a drive-by party. The event included a live performance from the museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, a Jeep parade, and more from local New Orleans musicians.
Funeral arrangements for the supercentenarian have not yet been made. Brooks’s wife, Leona, died in November 2008, and he is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren.
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