World War II veteran marks turning 100 with party
NEW FAIRFIELD — With balloons tied to his chair and a smile on his face, World War II veteran Lou Russo marked turning 100 on Saturday with a party in his home, surrounded by many of the friends who had helped him return there just a few years ago.
The combat veteran, who had turned 100 that Wednesday, greeted guests in a fitting “Lou: the man, the myth, the legend” shirt in his living room, sharing stories and secrets for reaching the milestone age.
“I feel like I’m just born,” Russo said when asked how it felt to turn 100.
If it weren’t for the framed photos of volunteers repairing the home and stories from friends, it’d be hard to tell that it had been a collapsed roof in this room that put Russo at the center of a year-long court battle back in 2013.
Back then, Russo had been placed against his will in a nursing home when he was injured in a fall and his house was found in disrepair.
The fight to get him back to the Hammond Road house, taken on by friends and fellow veterans, also brought together volunteers from nearly a dozen community organizations to repair the home.
Many who joined the party Saturday recalled how groups like Habitat for Humanity, The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Home Depot and others took on an extensive renovation so Russo could live comfortably in the house he had built himself.
“It was worth the effort,” said Bob Kubisek, explaining how his company Summit Stair and volunteers helped put in new stairs and railings. “It was great to see (everyone) coming together to help out the elderly. I think we should do it more often.”
Russo’s battle had also prompted legislation in Hartford last year, co-authored by state Sen. Michael McLachlan, to better protect the elderly from court-appointed conservators. Russo’s first conservator had sold the veteran’s belongings and rented out his house to another family while he was staying in the nursing home.
The 100-year-old’s conservator is now Joe Schirmer, a veteran and one of the friends who led the charge to bring him home.
One of the highlight’s of Saturday’s party was when McLachlan stopped by to present Russo with an official happy birthday citation from Hartford.
“Congratulations on 100 years and a happy birthday,” McLachlan read. “...And hope for continued success.”
“Continued age,” Russo joked before thanking the senator. “I’m going to frame this, that’s going right on the wall.”
As for the secret to reach 100? It’s all about food, Russo said.
“I learned about nutrition in 1942,” Russo said. “You eat well and you feel good all the time, that’s all it is.”