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West Hartford Veteran Honored with Parade for 100th Birthday

World War II veteran Ben Cooper thanks everyone for his birthday wishes. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

World War II veteran Ben Cooper was celebrated Sunday afternoon with a parade led off by the West Hartford Police Department and West Hartford Fire Department.

Ben Cooper and his family wave to parade participants. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

Thirty minutes before the 100th birthday parade for Ben Cooper was set to begin, a long line of cars parked along Gallaudet Drive, ready to wave and cheer to honor the West Hartford resident and World War II veteran.

“Thank you to all, and God bless America,” shouted Cooper in return from a chair his children had set up in his driveway.

He had many opportunities to repeat that phrase, as an estimated 100 vehicles driven by well-wishers paraded by, led off by a caravan of West Hartford Police Department and West Hartford Fire Department vehicles, sounding their sirens in greeting. Both chiefs were also part of the contingent.

“God bless you, and thank you. This is the best day of my life so far,” Cooper said.

While Cooper’s four children and other family members initially placed his chair well back in the driveway, and surrounded it with portable heaters to keep him warm on a very cold and blustery afternoon, and a sound system to amplify his greetings, Cooper insisted on being closer to the action. It’s hard to argue with a centenarian who, after being among the U.S. Army’s 45th Infantry Division that liberated the Dachau concentration camp in 1945, has become known for spreading kindness.

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Despite having witnessed horror and unspeakable tragedy during the war, Cooper’s life has been all about being positive and optimistic. Cooper – who did keep a mask on the entire time – also did his best to thwart his family members’ attempts to keep people socially distanced on Sunday afternoon, handing out his signature card to everyone who got close enough, a card which states: “Save humanity Stop hatred and bullying by practicing my life saving motto – ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ You can do it! Never give up! Always remember we all belong to the same race … the human race.”

As the parade came to an end, police and fire personnel made another loop around the block, stood outside their vehicles and gave the veteran a well-deserved salute. All who were present sang “Happy Birthday,” as Cooper waved and thanked everyone. His actual 100th birthday is Christmas Eve.

He was made a lifetime member of the American Legion, and state Reps. Tim Ackert and Tom Delnicki presented him with a proclamation and a flag that had flown at the state Capitol in his honor. He was also presented with a flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol building in Washington.

More about Cooper’s service and his experiences in the war and the messages he has shared with countless students can be found here.

West Hartford Police led off the parade. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“Blue Santa” waves from atop the vehicle. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Even the West Hartford Police Department K-9 participated in the parade. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Fire Department contingent, with sirens sounding. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ben Cooper started off watching the parade seated on his driveway near the house, surrounded by heaters. But he insisted on being closer to the action. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

State Rep. Tammy Exum and her husband, Earl, were among the participants in the birthday celebration. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Cooper and his family watch the parade. Some participants brought gifts, including the plant he’s holding. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Ben Cooper, a World War II veteran, stands to wave to the well-wishers who paraded by his home Sunday with 100th birthday wishes. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

West Hartford Police and West Hartford Fire Department members salute Ben Cooper. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The West Hartford Police Department’s ‘Blue Santa’ was among the well-wishers. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Members of the West Hartford Police Department give Ben Cooper a birthday greeting. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Representatives from American Legion Hayes-Velhage Post 96 greet Ben Cooper, and tell him he has been made a lifetime member of the organization. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

State Rep. Tom Delnicki presents Ben Cooper with a flag tht had flown over the state Capitol. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

State Rep. Tim Ackert speaks with Ben Cooper Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Newbolds, who are related to Ben Cooper, pose for a photo. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Participants line up along Gallaudet Drive before the parade began. Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Happy 100th Birthday parade in West Hartford for World War II veteran Ben Cooper. Dec. 19, 2021. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

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