Family and staff at the Parkwood Institute surprised Second World War veteran Charles (Charlie) Jackson with a birthday drive-by to mark his 100th birthday in London, Ont., Saturday.
Jackson and his wife, Jean, sat outside Parkwood Institute, waving and shaking maracas at a parade of family, friends, and community members driving by and giving well wishes.
Speaking to reporters after the event, Charlie joked that he did not think he had that many friends.
“I am so grateful because they all came together at the same time,” he said.
Son Brian Jackson, who helped organize the birthday surprise, said he was “beaming” with how well it turned out.
“We have been thinking about this for a while, and there have been times we did not think he would make it.”
“Someone up there is looking down on us saying you deserve a sunny day, and we got one,” Brian Jackson said.
He said the day would not have been possible without the help of staff at Parkwood.
Jackson was born in London, Ont., on Oct. 16, 1920.
His family describes him as not the best student but someone who liked to play with radio sets. This led him to enrol in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 during the Second World War.
He was one of a number of Canadians chosen for radar training during the war, which had only been invented five years earlier.
Jackson made the trip across the Atlantic in 1941 and was a part of a convoy of 25 supply ships that were attacked by Nazi U-boats causing many boats to catch fire and sink. His family said his boat was able to escape and sail safely to Iceland before arriving in England.
He would then teach about the applications of radar in aircraft and ships for the remainder of the war.
After the war, Brian Jackson said his father played an “instrumental role” in setting up the community college system in Ontario, eventually becoming vice-president of St. Clair College.
Jackson married Jean in May 1949, and the two have been married for 71 years. They have four children, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
“It’s been a great trip, and we had a lot of fun together, and we played a lot of golf and did a lot of swing dancing,” Jean said.
Looking back on the last 71 years of marriage, Jean said they have been through war, the Great Depression and said their family has been wonderful.
As for how he plans to spend the rest of his birthday, Jackson will be enjoying some cake with his wife and fellow veterans.
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