CHESHIRE — The town will be celebrating the lives of three very special residents on Friday.
Irv Daubert, Florence Bryant, and Ralph Rowland are three World War II veterans, each of whom will turn 100 years old this month, and Cheshire is throwing them a party.
“Oh man, I had a lot of great days back then,” said Florence Bryant, of her time as an Army nurse. “I was not in any combat — I thank President Truman for that — but we did have our fun.”
Beginning at 11 a.m., the town will honor the three local World War II veterans during a ceremony at Bartlem Park, followed by a parade through town.
The parade will pass by all the schools, and students plan to be outside to cheer.
Daubert served as staff sergeant in the Army Air Corps, Rowland as a seabee in the Navy, and Bryant as first lieutenant chief nurse.
While Bryant never saw combat, she certainly experienced her fair share of hardships and challenges as a young nurse.
“In November of 1944, I was sent down to Louisiana to the segregated wards that they had down there,” she recalled. “I worked in the Black wards until they then sent me to California. I was at Camp Beale when we got the news that President Roosevelt had died.”
Daubert, who enlisted in the army, reflected on a time when drafts would determine who would be on the front lines.
“I knew what I was signing up for, but I knew many who did not,” he said. “Some people just had to do it. That was the way things were back then.”
The event is being sponsored by two local organizations, Because of the Brave and the Bouzzoto’s Hometown Foundation Inc. The ceremony will feature a keynote address by Colonel Kevin Brown U.S. Army (ret.), along with speeches by Town Council Chairman Rob Oris, Gold Star mother Helen Keiser-Pedersen, and ESPN’s Chris Berman.
“What is really fantastic about this ceremony is that it’s the younger generation who wants to get involved and help recognize these veterans for all they did for us,” said Daubert’s daughter, Leslie.
One of the organizations, Because of the Brave, was founded by 17-year-old CHS student Hayley Falk, who has dedicated much of her young life to remembering veterans for their service and organizing special events specifically for veterans.
“Although I have never personally met Hayley, she is an incredible young woman for doing all that she is with veterans,” said Bryant’s daughter, Joann. “Young people are really bringing everyone together to honor these veterans and it’s an amazing thing.”
For Falk, bringing honor and remembrance to veterans is something she hopes to continue as an adult.
“Behind this celebration, we are hoping to remind everyone of the service and sacrifice of those who have gone before us to support our way of life, our freedom,” she said. “With everything going on in this country currently, I believe we can remind people of what a great nation we have.”
“Cheshire native and Medal of Honor Recipient Barney Barnum, who has also inspired me through our interactions, once said, ‘Love (the) country. We live in the greatest country in the world. We have some problems, but the alternative is not very good.’ Today’s youth can learn so much from these men and women, just as I have,” she continued.
As for the guests of honor, they are simply happy their service has been acknowledged.
“I remember when I was able to write a letter home to my parents, how excited they were,” Bryant recalled. “I learned later that my father went around town telling everyone he had received a letter from me. It feels good to be recognized like that.”
Turning 100 is a feat in and of itself, yet Daubert and the others are humbled by the celebration.
“It’s really an incredible thing, a celebration like this,” he reflected. “Definitely not something I would ever ask for. I am just delighted to be a part of it.”
The ceremony and parade are by invitation only because of Covid-19 restrictions and to keep our honored guests safe.
If you have an antique World War Two-era or military vehicle you would like to enter into the parade, contact Mack Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org.