Navy veteran marks 100-year milestone with flood of birthday cards from across the nation

IVINS — For his 100th birthday, veteran John Dunn was honored with an outpouring of support from family, friends and others from across the nation.

Navy veteran John Dunn celebrates his 100th birthday at the Southern Utah Veterans Home with Miss Washington County McKenna Hodge, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“It’s wonderful,” son-in-law Dave Peterson said of the special birthday celebration, held Thursday morning at Dunn’s place of residence at the Southern Utah Veterans Home in Ivins. 

Six weeks ago, staff at the home put out a call to the community for 100 birthday cards to help celebrate Dunn’s milestone, and the response was overwhelming. When asked how many cards he thought might have come in, Dunn replied, “two.” 

To everyone’s surprise, recreation director Lorielle Record said he received 470 in all, 219 of which came from Washington County residents. People from Manti sent in the second-most cards at 144, and the rest were from veterans and friends across the country, from as far away as New Hampshire and Florida.

Record told Dunn there were so many cards, it might take until his next birthday to get through them all, “so good luck.”

Birthday cards sent from across the U.S. for veteran John Dunn’s 100th birthday party at the Southern Utah Veterans Home, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

“It’s very nice,” Dunn responded.

Born Aug. 29, 1919, Dunn is a father of two who served in the Navy during World War II.

Dunn said one of his favorite games in his youth was basketball. “Well, I used to do a lot of dancing, I’ll tell ya. Can’t even walk now,” he said.

These days, he prefers a game of Bingo or Rummikub. 

When asked the one thing he never got to do that he might still like to try, he answered, “fly to the moon.”

In attendance at the party was Miss Washington County McKenna Hodge, whose social platform is “Anywhere they go, supporting our troops and veterans.” She told St. George News she hopes to pay visits to the veteran’s home as much as possible during her reign. The 21-year-old Dixie State University student fought back her emotions while addressing Dunn and the room of well-wishers. 

Hodge said she was honored to be at the event and that she chose her platform because of her love for veterans.

“I get to do what I love, and I get to visit with amazing veterans like you all,” she said. “I am so grateful for you and all of your service that you have done.” 

MaryAnn Maher helps Navy veteran John Dunn celebrate his 100th birthday at the Southern Utah Veterans Home, Ivins, Utah, Aug. 29, 2019 | Photo by Andrew Pinckney, St. George News

She said she can’t wait to chat with Dunn and glean some of the wisdom he’s gained after 100 years.

“Happy birthday, and thank you for being such an inspiration to my generation,” Hodge said.

Former employee MaryAnn Maher, who worked at the home for five years, also attended the celebration. During her time at the home, she became close friends with Dunn and his family. She helped him read a few of the cards, and the pair appeared overjoyed as she helped him dance in his wheelchair while the resident choir serenaded him his favorite song, “Fly me to the moon.” 

Sharing a piece of cake decorated for his love of the moon and a silhouette of a dancing couple, Dunn entered life as a centenarian with a laugh and a smile.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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