The oldest known American WWII veteran died Wednesday (January 5) at the age of 112, the WWII Museum confirmed.
Lawrence Brooks was born in Norwood, Louisiana in 1909 and drafted in the US Army at the age of 31 to serve in the Second World War. He was a part of the predominately Black 91st Engineer Battalion and was stationed in New Guinea and the Philippines, according to the Museum.
After serving in the war, Brooks worked as a forklift operator for 40 years. His wife, Leona, died in 2008. He leaves behind five children, 13 grandchildren, and 32 great-grand children.
Since 2014, the WWII Museum has hosted a birthday celebration for Brooks –– including social-distanced gatherings amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“He was a beloved friend, a man of great faith, and had a gentle spirit that inspired those around him,” Stephen J. Watson, president and CEO of the museum told CNN.
“His kindness, smile and sense of humor connected him to generations of people who loved and admired him.”
President Joe Biden tweeted a statement following news of Brooks’ death.
“I’m saddened to learn that Lawrence Brooks –– who was the oldest surviving US WWII veteran –– has passed. I had the honor of speaking with him last year, and he was truly the best of America. I’m keeping his loved ones in my prayers,” the president tweeted.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards also tweeted a statement following the news.
According to the US Department of Veteran Affairs, of the 16 million US veterans who fought in WWII, an estimated 240,000 are still alive.
Brooks’ passing, the museum said, highlights the urgency of recording and preserving the stories of the service members who fought in World War II for generations to come.