The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has announced Lawrence Brooks, the country's oldest surviving World War II Veteran, tragically died on Wednesday at the age of 112. Stephen J. Watson, CEO and President of the National WWII Museum called the Veteran a "gentle spirit" and a great man of faith.
"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 stated. "His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him."
John Bel Edwards, who is the Louisiana governor, also offered his condolences on Twitter, stating, "I am sorry to hear of the passing of Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America's oldest World War II veteran, and a proud Louisianan. I am thankful I had the chance to meet him and learn from his service."
Rest in Peace Lawrence Brooks. Thank you for your service and all you gave to this countryhttps://t.co/4yQXC1QdQR
— Ryan James Girdusky (@RyanGirdusky) January 5, 2022
Brooks previously made headlines late last year after celebrating his birthday on September 12.
"Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America's oldest living World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan," Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards wrote on Twitter at the time of his birthday. "Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday."
Brooks celebrated his birthday at his Louisiana home on Sunday (Sept. 12) with a drive-by celebration hosted by the National World War II Museum. The celebration included a performance by the museum's vocal trio, The Victory Belles, a Jeep parade and performances from New Orleans musicians.
In 2020, museum officials weren't able to throw a birthday celebration due to COVID-19, so they asked people to mail Brooks birthday cards.
Happy 112th birthday to Mr. Lawrence Brooks, America?s oldest living World War II veteran and a proud Louisianan. Mr. Brooks, the entire state of Louisiana thanks you for your service and we all wish you a joyous birthday. #lagov pic.twitter.com/MYNdrhnpH8
— John Bel Edwards (@LouisianaGov) September 12, 2021
"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 in 2020. "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."
Brooks served in a mostly African-American unit of the U.S. Army during WWII, the 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines. He served as a support worker from 1940 and 1945 and was a servant to three white officers in his battalion. By the end of his time served he reached the rank of private 1st class. During his lifetime, he earned the title of oldest living WWII veteran.
The National WWII Museum has been celebrating the WWII veteran's birthdays since he turned 105. Richard Overton was previously the record holder for the nation's oldest living World War II veteran, but passed away at the age of 112.
"We absolutely love Mr. Brooks," the museum's vice president, Peter Crean, told FOX News. "We've told him, 'As long as you keep having birthdays, we are going to keep having birthday parties for you here.'"
"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 said. "I think it's because I've always liked people so much. Oh yes, I do."
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At the age of 70, Brooks retired in New Orleans, where he almost lost his life in Hurricane Katrina, which took his wife.
"Hurricane Katrina took everything I owned, washed away everything," Brooks told CBS News.
Brooks has had five children, 13 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren throughout his life. He credited his old age to going on long walks and chewing gum.
This article was originally published in 2019. It was updated on January 5, 2022, after the passing of Lawrence Brooks.
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