WW II vet Fred Arsenault is turning 100. His son plans birthday gift that's 'just out of this world'
Ron Arsenault launches appeal for 100 birthday cards in time for March 6 celebration
Fred Arsenault loves getting letters the old-fashioned way — through the postal service.
It was while serving in the Second World War that Arsenault learned to fully appreciate the significance of receiving that envelope.
"He was in a slit trench and he would get a letter from his mom. So, he would read it at night in the darkness," his son, Ron Arsenault told CBC News.
"My dad was a private in the army … He was involved in the Italian campaign [and] he was also involved in the liberation of the Netherlands."
Arsenault will be turning 100 on March 6 and his son says he has come up with a birthday gift that is "just out of this world" for his dad.
WATCH: Ron Arsenault shares his plan for his dad's 100th birthday:
Ron Arsenault has launched an online petition of sorts, asking his friends to help him get his dad 100 birthday cards for his birthday.
"I know the story with my dad that he loves mail, and he said he'd love to get some birthday cards," he said.
"I thought, well, let's get him some birthday cards."
In 2009, when Fred Arsenault moved in with Ron's family, the mailman could not near the front door before Fred would announce that "the mailman is here."
"So, we'd get him the mail and he would go through it. Any of the flyers that came, he would be the first one to go through it. So, now he's going to have some birthday cards to go through."
'100, yes sir, it's hard to believe'
Because of his age, Fred Arsenault does not remember much and he says very little.
But he says when he receives letters he gets to know what's happening around him.
"You get friends," he told CBC News.
He is aware that his birthday is coming up and he knows it's the big one.
"Darn right. I never had such a big birthday, never, never; 100, yes sir, it's hard to believe," he said.
He also remembers how he met his wife, who's now deceased.
"I wish to God she was here tonight," Fred said.
A big family reunion
Ron Arsenault has told his dad about the plans for his 100th birthday, which include "a big party" on March 7.
"The good thing [is that] he's involved with Branch 73 of the [Royal Canadian] Legion. They've provided the hall for him so we're going to have a big family reunion for him," Ron said.
"He's looking forward to that. We have a live band, so it's going to be a busy month. My cousin's daughter, she's an out-of-this-world cake maker and she's making the cake for his 100th birthday."
The response to Ron Arsenault's appeal has been picking up steam with retweets from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto Mayor John Tory, and even the Canadian Forces in the United States.
Tory tweeted his support of the initiative on Wednesday morning, saying it's "great to see" students sending letters to the veteran.
Great to see students writing birthday letters to WWII veteran Fred Arsenault. <a href="https://t.co/g8OzpC9Pzb">https://t.co/g8OzpC9Pzb</a>—@JohnTory
Ford has asked people to join him "in honouring this incredible veteran and sending him a birthday card."
Dear friends,<br><br>Once, buried alive by an enemy shell. His brothers dug him out. <br><br>Once, a man standing beside him was shot and killed by a Nazi sniper.<br><br>Once, Ortona, Monte Cassino, north through Italy to France.<br><br>Now, he’d like to hear from you. Please write.<br><br>Yours,<a href="https://twitter.com/CAFinUS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@CAFinUS</a> <a href="https://t.co/UHL59MYmlm">pic.twitter.com/UHL59MYmlm</a>—@CAFinUS
"We thought 100, because I only posted it online to my friends, but it's gone viral … I've seen some of the posts that have been shared from across Canada," Ron said.
Fred Arsenault is now a resident at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre, but his son says anyone who wishes to send a card to his dad should send it to Ron's residence at:
9 Kenmore Avenue
"It's going to mean a lot to him because when we went to Ottawa [for a Remembrance Day celebration], a lot of time what he would really enjoy is when the children, when they come up and thank him for the service," Ron said.
"To get these cards from strangers, it's going to be really, really special for dad and our whole family."
With files from Grant Linton