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Memorial service honors Lawrence Brooks, oldest World War II veteran who died at 112 in New Orleans

New Orleans' Lawrence Brooks, shown in this 2019 file photo holding a photo of himself taken in...
New Orleans' Lawrence Brooks, shown in this 2019 file photo holding a photo of himself taken in 1943, died Jan. 5 at age 112, as the nation's oldest surviving World War II veteran. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)(Gerald Herbert | AP)
Published: Jan. 15, 2022 at 9:56 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Lawrence Brooks, the nation’s oldest surviving World War II veteran until his death at age 112 on Jan. 5, was honored Saturday (Jan. 15) in a private memorial service at the National World War II Museum.

His daughter and caregiver Vanessa Brooks earlier this month told the Military Times her father’s health was winding. He was in and out of the local veterans’ hospital several times in recent months but was still alert, enjoying the holidays and watching his beloved Saints play until the end, she said.

The National World War II Museum released a statement saying, in part, it was “deeply saddened by the loss.”

“He was a dear friend, who celebrated his birthday with us every year starting in 2014, when he was just a spry 105-year-old. His consistent advice when asked for the secret behind his longevity was, ‘Serve God, and be nice to people.’ We are feeling his loss heavily today at the Museum, and we offer our condolences to his daughter Vanessa and his family,” a post on Instagram read.

Brooks was born on Sept. 12, 1909, in Norwood, La.

He was drafted into the US Army in 1940 and served in the 91st Engineer Battalion unit until he was discharged in 1945. Brooks earned the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, and WWII Victory Medal. He also served in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines.

Lt. Colonel Patrick Sullivan is the current battalion commander of the 91st Brigade Engineer Battalion where Brooks served until 1945.

“At that point it was an all African American unit in World War II,” said Sullivan.

“Mr. Brooks was drafted and actually signed back up and said ‘hey, I want to stay’.”

After returning to New Orleans, he worked as a forklift operator until his retirement.

A lifelong Saints fan and a faithful member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in New Orleans until he died, Brooks was known as a man of faith and humor.

“When he was in better health he would take care of his plants, including the rose bush that even survived Katrina,” said St. Luke’s Episcopal Church Reverend Jane-Allison Wiggin.

“And when he could no longer take care of his own gardening, he still walked the neighborhood as he was known to do as long as he could. And when that too ended, he sat on the porch and soaked up the sun and all the visitors that came by.”

His memorial service guest book may be signed at gertrudegeddeswillis.com.

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