A plethora of Happy 100th Birthday cards keep Arcadia WWII veterinarian Harry Horak reading and smiling – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

  • Harry Horak from Arcadia turns 100 today. A World War II Air Corps lieutenant, Horak, right, poses with his doctor son David, the chief of pulmonary / intensive care medicine at City of Hope in Duarte. (Courtesy photo by Carol Saunders)

  • Harry Horak met his bride Vivian in Colorado. “She said let’s get married so we did,” he said. Horak also agreed to give up his military career. (Courtesy photo by Carol Saunders)

  • Harry and Vivian Horak with their young children in Santa Monica in the 1950s. The couple later moved to Duarte. The WWII bombardier, new 100, now lives in Arcadia. (Courtesy photo by Carol Saunders)

  • Harry and Vivian Horak had four children, including David, a doctor in the City of Hope in Duarte. (Courtesy photo by Carol Saunders)

Today is Harry Raymond Horak’s 100th birthday. The postman knows. He delivered the deck of cards to Arcadia Gardens ahead of the big day. By Friday, the World War II veteran and retired tax advisor had received about 200 birthday greetings from grateful Valley residents.

“Morning Carrie,” he wrote to his daughter-in-law. “I just got a huge amount of mail again. Bigger than what I got before. Will start reading it. I’ve read all the emails I’ve received before. “

Carol Saunders, from Arcadia, said her father-in-law was sticking to the meticulousness of the birthday flood.

“He opens each one carefully and reads them, he’s so happy,” she said.

His milestone birthday is the latest addition to a fulfilling life. Horak was born in the small farming town of Munden, Kansas, in 1921. His parents, George and Blanche, ran a farm. A tornado devastated that farm and Horak said his father worked odd jobs until he died at the age of 45.

When World War II broke out in 1941, young Horak tried to join the Air Corps, but just like Steve Rogers, aka Captain America, he was considered underweight.

“So I taught in a one-room schoolhouse for six months and tried to gain weight and was accepted,” said Horak. “I passed the Bombardier and Navigator exam and got my pilot’s license.”

Horak trained at an Air Corps facility north of Minneapolis, then in Pueblo, Colorado, where he met his wife Vivian.

Assigned to the 449th bomb group called “The Flying Horsemen”, Horak served in Grottaglia in southern Italy. In his meticulous handwriting, he listed the mission number, date, location and destination of every operation and mission that he flew from August 12, 1944 to February 1, 1945.

His plane was called “Raggadaz” because its tail was shot down during a mission, Horak said with a smile. A point of pride? Everyone in his crew survived.

At first Lt. Horak served in active service from 1942 to 1944 and then in the Air Force Reserves until 1957. Until then Vivian wanted to settle down. Horak earned a degree in business administration from the University of Colorado and then worked in Denver, Nebraska, and Minneapolis.

In 1956 the family moved to Santa Monica and Horak worked at Douglas Aircraft (later McDonnell Douglas, then Boeing). In 1984 he retired after 30 years. By now their three children were grown up: Don, a computer programmer, born in 1949; David, doctor, born 1953; and Carol, a high school English teacher, born in 1957.

Harry and Vivian stayed in Santa Monica until 2012. They lived in Duarte until Vivian died in 2015. They were married for 70 years.

Harry moved to Arcadia three years ago, where he persevered despite the limits age and the pandemic placed on him. During this time he lost two friends and is confined to a wheelchair. But he’s still polite and attentive and cuts off his conversation with “Pardon?”

He writes and chats with his children and keeps an eye on his four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

“Harry is demanding, honest, never breaks rules,” Saunders said. “He gave us a box with his ministry records and he has a detailed list of each mission. He loved being part of the Air Corps. He is also very gentle and generous with his family. “

Her Nextdoor post, requesting birthday cards for the WWII veteran, received over 400 comments and nearly 600 responses. Many people told stories of their own parents or grandparents doing military service. One helped get Horak a commendation from the Arcadia City Council. Arcadia police promised to try to drive by and greet him.

It will be a wonderful way to celebrate a great man, said his daughter-in-law. And a reminder that the world hasn’t forgotten the skinny boy from Kansas. By far not.

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