SOUTHINGTON — Dozens of vehicles paraded by the house of a World Warfare II veteran on Monday to have a good time his 100th birthday.
“I by no means anticipated all of this,” mentioned Henry Sklarski, as neighbors introduced presents and glasses of champagne to his Stony Creek Highway house. He’s identified within the neighborhood for sitting outdoors his house and sharing tales of his three years serving within the Military, the place he was deployed to France and Germany and rose to the rank of workers sergeant.
A type of tales reveals how Sklarski met his spouse whereas stationed in France. Whereas Sklarski and his future spouse had been separated when he was despatched to Germany for 5 months, by happenstance he was moved again to the identical city the place they met. She died 5 years in the past.
As he was recounting the story in his storage on Monday, a neighbor handed round glasses of champagne and held a toast for Sklarski. Earlier than taking a sip, Sklarski thanked everybody, saying “merci beaucoup” and “thanks.”
“You’re all nice and fantastic neighbors,” he instructed them, as they lined as much as hand him presents.
After the conflict, Sklarski labored in a coal mine in his house state of Pennsylvania for a number of years till shifting to Connecticut in 1956 after narrowly avoiding a mine cave-in. He settled right into a job on the Winchester Repeating Arms Firm in New Haven, the place he labored as a basic foreman. He now spends a lot of his time gardening and solely gave up driving a number of months in the past, because of declining eyesight.
Although he knew per week forward of time that his neighbors had been planning a celebration for him,
Sklarski was stunned by how many individuals confirmed. Seeing all the brand new faces — individuals who had come to honor a veteran — resonated with Sklarski.
“We didn’t go over there preventing for nothing,” he mentioned.
A type of new faces was Matthew Jalowiec, who introduced his iconic 1942 Ford Jeep to the celebration and gave Sklarski and his visitors rides across the neighborhood. He famous the Jeep was made the identical 12 months that Sklarski started his navy service.
He was compelled to make the drive from his Cheshire house to acknowledge the sacrifices made by World Warfare II veterans like Sklarski.
“The perseverance and grit the best era possessed secured the freedoms we get pleasure from within the 21st century. We’ve an obligation to recollect, protect and train that to the following era,” he mentioned.
Seeing so many different folks gathered to want Sklarski a cheerful birthday gave Jalowiec hope for the long run.
Capt. Jacob Huber, an lively responsibility military recruiter, mentioned the celebration confirmed him there’s an amazing assist for veterans within the Southington neighborhood. Joined by a dozen troopers from his firm in Hartford and the Bristol recruiting station, he mentioned it was an honor for them to satisfy Sklarski and acknowledge a member of the ever-diminishing ranks of World Warfare II veterans.
“It was a thanks from the younger troopers for many who got here earlier than us and blazed the trail,” he mentioned.
One of many organizations neighbors contacted was Mission BBQ on Queen Road, a restaurant that raises cash for nonprofits that serve first responders, veterans and their households. Employees there helped organize the motorcade, reaching out to navy recruiting stations and securing cruisers from round 10 native police departments for the parade.
“That is what it’s all about. That is the epitome of what we do,” mentioned Mission BBQ worker Caitlyn Jones.
The restaurant additionally donated lunches and dinners to Sklarski and his visitors, and welcomed them to come back into the restaurant earlier than opening, to permit the retirees to have further social distancing.
“It’s so distinctive to have the ability to do one thing for World Warfare Two (veterans),” Jones mentioned. “ … It’s an honor for us to have the ability to do it.”