World War II Veteran Honored On 95th Birthday

May 12, 2019

WILKES-BARRE — Robert Brodbeck knew he was having a birthday party Saturday, but he didn’t know just what his friends and family had in store.

When the 95-year-old World War II veteran walked into a community room at East End Towers in Wilkes-Barre, he was greeted with visiting politicians, two honor guards and music.

The crowd sang “For he’s a jolly-good fellow” while he took off his hat and waved.

Then he sat in the middle of a long table for a celebration of his service to his country and his life of more than nine decades.

Brodbeck was 18 years old when he joined the U.S. Army. He became an anti-aircraft artillery gunner, working in teams to spot enemy aircraft and maneuver their artillery to shoot down hostile planes. One month after the invasion of Normandy, he was helping to secure the beachheads that were the starting point for the Allies’ campaign to liberate Europe.

“It’s because of men like this that we are free,” said state Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-121, Wilkes-Barre.

Wilkes-Barre Mayor Tony George read a city proclamation in honor of Brodbeck, and city Councilman Tony Brooks read a poem to commemorate the day.

“Today people take for granted what you gave us, and that’s unfortunate, because people should praise you every single day,” George said.

Brodbeck came to the Wilkes-Barre Housing Authority in 2008, said Kathy Kasper, the manager of East End Towers. He has become known in the building for upholstery and handmade throw pillows, many of which are made from men’s ties. A table of his work was on display at the party.

Step into his room, she said, “and it look likes you’re in a New York City penthouse apartment.”

“A lot lower rent though,” Brodbeck responded.

After the speeches and photos, Brodbeck told the crowd he has never felt better.

His advice for a long life?

“Just be happy,” he said. “Help others when you can.”

Brodbeck’s actual birth date is May 7, so he was surprised by all the ceremony.

His birthday wish, he said, is to see the next one.

“We’re going for 100,” said his friend and caretaker Dennis Disbrow.

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