NEW ORLEANS — Family and friends gathered at the National WWII Museum on Saturday to remember Lawrence Brooks, who was the oldest surviving World War II veteran until his death on Jan. 5 at age 112.
During the service, Brooks’ flag-draped coffin was front and center. The museum’s Victory Belles — whom Brooks loved to hear perform — were among several to pay tribute to his life, harmoniously singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and “Amazing Grace.” Another soloist sang a medley of songs, including “Oh Freedom,” “America” and “Glory, Glory Hallelujah!”
The museum’s president and chief executive, Stephen J. Watson, offered condolences to Brooks’ family, noting that he was known at the museum as “Mr. Brooks.”
“This was his museum, and we hope it felt like a second home,” said Watson, who described Brooks as a “gentle soul who inspired all around him.”
Watson said Brooks garnered love and respect from many across the nation, noting the more than 21,500 birthday cards he received in 2020 from people in all 50 states and 30 countries.
“His secret to longevity: Be nice to people. That positive attitude serves as a philosophy all of us should embrace,” Watson said. “Thank you for sharing him with us and letting us be a part of your lives.”
Cedric Richmond, a senior advisor to President Joe Biden and former Louisiana congressman, also thanked Brooks’ family for allowing his participation in the memorial highlighting “a purpose-driven life.”
“Because he is here, I am here,” Richmond said. “His blood, sweat and tears paved the way for me to do all that I can do.”
Richmond also read a letter from Biden and his wife, Jill, to Brooks’ family.
“He will be remembered as a strong man and a good soldier,” Biden wrote.
Brooks was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1940. After Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to the mostly Black 91st Engineer General Service Regiment stationed in Australia. The unit built bridges, roads and airstrips for planes.