Hamilton

WWII veteran celebrates 102 with cold beer, legion band and party outside his window

Jack Morris's family decided not even COVID-19 could keep them from marking his big day and organized a gathering outside the Niagara Gardens nursing home Thursday.

Jack Morris rode motorcycles into his 80s and enjoys a cold one

Jack Morris, 102, peers out his window at Niagara Gardens nursing home while loved ones wish him happy birthday and a legion band plays. (Supplied by Karen Morris-McDougall)

Jack Morris celebrated turning 102 with a cold beer in his hand and a legion band playing outside his window.

Family members of the lifelong St. Catharines man decided not even COVID-19 could keep them from marking the occasion and organized a gathering outside his room at the Niagara Gardens nursing home Thursday.

With balloons hanging from the sill and loved ones holding signs wishing him a happy birthday, Morris raised his can of Newcastle Brown Ale in appreciation.

He developed his taste in beverages in England during the Second World War, according to his daughter Karen Morris-McDougall, who organized the party.

"He's quite a character," she said with a laugh. "He has a beer every day."

Overseas is also where he discovered motorcycles while serving as a dispatch rider, an interest he picked up again years later in Canada and kept enjoying far longer than anyone expected.

"He rode it till he was 86 and we had to talk him into getting off it," Morris-McDougall said with a laugh.

Amanda McDougall holds a sign wishing her grandfather a happy birthday. (Supplied by Karen Morris-McDougall)

Morris built the house his children grew up in and, like his father, enjoyed working with wood, she explained. The family would sometimes teasingly refer to him as the "cellar-dweller" when he'd disappear downstairs to tinker in the basement.

"I was the first kid in the neighbourhood with ... a soapbox [car] with a motor," Morris-McDougall recalled.

An independent person, Morris drove until he was 96, said his daughter. He only moved into the care home about four years ago where he continued looking after himself until switching over to the assisted-living side of the building about two months ago.

Morris-McDougall said she and her brother would often stop by for a visit and a cold one, but the pandemic has made things difficult.

"COVID came around and all of a sudden we can't get in to see him," she explained. "So it's hard on us but I'm sure it's harder on him because he doesn't understand why they won't let us in."

That's why she decided to make her father's big day extra special and contacted the legion for help.

The band played Happy Birthday while legion members saluted. (Suppled by Karen Morris-McDougall)

Representatives from four legions turned out, saluting sharply while band members making sure to maintain physical distancing played songs including Happy Birthday and O Canada and family members shouted their best wishes.

"He did good. I was impressed with him because it was a bit of shock," Morris-McDougall said, laughing.

"He held up his Newcastle Brown and saluted them."

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