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100-year-old vet honoured with birthday tribute

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Tara Jeffrey

Bruce Murray is a survivor.

The 100-year-old Sarnia veteran has withstood the horrors of war, endured the grief of losing his wife of nearly 70 years, and recovered from the ills of an unprecedented pandemic.

“You’ve got to have faith in yourself, that’s all,” said Murray, a resident at Landmark Village who celebrated his 100th birthday recently. “When things get tough, you’ve got to get going.”

Murray tested positive for COVID-19 back in the spring, as the deadly virus ripped through the Sarnia retirement home. It killed six residents, including his beloved Helen.

“We had a good life together,” said Murray. “She was a fine girl; she looked after me.”

Murray remained largely asymptomatic with the virus and was never admitted to hospital.

After a hard few months — including weeks without seeing any family, and living in isolation — Murray’s loved ones wanted to surprise him with a 100th birthday parade.

On Dec. 4 he was brought outside and greeted by family, friends, Sarnia Fire Rescue members in fire trucks, Sarnia Police officers in cruisers, and Royal Canadian Legion members, as the bagpipes played ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Happy Birthday.’

“It was just overwhelming,” said Murray, who is legally blind. “I had a little tear in my eye.

Murray said turning 100 was a day he knew he wanted to reach; and says he’s fortunate to have been blessed with good health over the years.

“I’ve got problems just like everybody else — I’m blind and I don’t hear too well — but it’s alright. You learn to live with these things.”

“He’s always kept a positive attitude about things — it’s remarkable,” Jan Charrette said of her dad, who attended Devine Street School and SCITS before joining the Royal Canadian Air Force and serving in the Second World War as a bombardier in the 23rd battery of the Royal Canadian Artillery. He returned to Canada and spent a career at Imperial Oil.

Bruce Murray and daughter Kerry Leckie take in the drive-by birthday salute at Landmark Village.
Troy Shantz

“I guess I can attribute my long life to cycling to work and back every day,” Murray said. “Everybody thought I was crazy. I guess I was a bit ahead of my time.”

Murray was twice named to the Mayor’s Honour List over the years, once as an individual, and also as a member of the Sarnia Concert Association. He has sold Remembrance Day poppies each year, right up until 2019 at age 99. Pandemic restrictions kept him from doing it this year.

Murray said his birthday parade was the highlight of a very hard year.

“I can’t explain it. It’s just unbelievable that people think so much of me to do something like that. It overwhelms me. I feel very humble,” he said.

“I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life.”

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