Lawrence Brooks, the oldest known living US World War II veteran, was beloved by many, and to the world he was recognized for his exceptional military service.
According to the National WWII Museum, Brooks passed away on Jan. 5, 2022, at 112.
One of 15 children, Brooks was raised in Norwood, Louisiana. He was drafted into the US Army at 31 and spent World War II in the predominantly African American 91st Engineer Battalion, which was stationed in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines, according to the museum. During his service, he attained the rank of Private 1st Class. After the war, he returned home where he worked as a forklift operator for 40 years, eventually retiring in his 70s. His wife, Leona, died in November 2008, and he is survived by five children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grandchildren.
“He was a beloved friend, a man of great faith and had a gentle spirit that inspired those around him,” said Stephen Watson, the museum’s president and chief executive. “He proudly served our country during World War II, and returned home to serve his community and church. His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him.”
Leading up to his passing, Brooks had been in and out of the local veterans’ hospital in New Orleans in recent months, according to the Associated Press. His daughter, Vanessa Brooks, told the news outlet that, among other medical issues, he had lost much of his hearing and sight in one eye, with his vision fading in the other.
His last birthday, on Sept. 12, was celebrated at his home in Central City as residents gathered for a drive-by celebration hosted by The National World War II Museum. For his 112th, the festivities included a live performance from the Museum’s vocal trio, The Victory Belles, a Jeep parade, a military flyover his New Orleans house, and more entertainment from a collection of local New Orleans musicians. New Orleans also recognized Brooks’s birthday with an official proclamation.
Since 2014, the museum has hosted Brooks’ birthday parties, in which they recall his good humor and enthusiasm. His memory will live on forever.