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Oldest WWII veteran in U.S., Lawrence Brooks, dies at 112 in his New Orleans home

Brooks, a New Orleans native, was born on Sept. 12, 1909. He served in the predominantly African American Engineers Battalion.
Credit: Gerald Herber | AP Photo
FILE - World War II veteran Lawrence Brooks holds a photo of him taken in 1943, as he celebrates his 110th birthday at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, on Sept. 12, 2019. For Veterans Day, a group of Democratic lawmakers is reviving an effort to pay the families of Black servicemen who fought on behalf of the nation during World War II for benefits they were denied or prevented from taking full advantage of when they returned home from war. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

NEW ORLEANS — A New Orleanian known around the country died this morning. At 112-years old, Lawrence Brooks was the oldest living World War II veteran. 

Brooks was known for his optimism, sense of humor, and as a man of great faith. 

"Mr. Brooks was just such a gentle soul. He's such a wonderful man loved by everyone, he loved this city, loved the Saints, and loved this museum," Peter Crean, V.P. of Education and Access at the WWII Museum, said. 

Born Sept. 12, 1909, Brooks was drafted into the army at 31-years old. He served during WWII in the predominantly African American 91st engineer battalion. 

"The army was segregated at that time and his duties as a soldier were essentially to be an orderly for white officers," Crean said. "He did not let that pull him down."

After his time in service, Brooks worked as a forklift operator and raised five children, followed by 13 grandchildren and 32 great grandchildren. He was healthy and mentally sharp well past age 100, but in recently months his health was declining. Brooks died the morning of Jan. 5, 2022 at 112-years old. 

"He had an incredible life," Crean said. "If you think of all the challenges Mr. Brooks had in 112 years, you'd think he had a chip on his shoulder, but that is not the case."

Brooks was often asked what the secret was to such a long life. He always offered the same simple, yet profound advice. 

"No secret," Brooks said on his 111th birthday. "Just serve God and be nice to people."

"And he lived by that. He was nice to everyone he met and he just wanted others to be happy," Crean said. 

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