South Burlington can now boast the oldest Veteran in the State of Vermont.
World War II Veteran Lenny Roberge, at age 105, is officially the oldest Veteran on the books in the Green Mountain State. That’s according to Katherine Tang, Public Affairs Officer with the Veteran Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction.
“We are proud to serve Mr. Roberge, WWII Veteran and all Veterans,” she wrote in an email statement. “Mr. Roberge is 105 years young, making him the oldest Veteran enrolled in our White River Junction Healthcare System. We wish Mr. Roberge health and happiness this Veterans Day. Thank you for your service.”
Roberge has lived independently at Allenwood in South Burlington for over 10 years. His daughter, Lucille Nadeau, lives close by and oversees his care. An avid pie-maker and Red Sox fan, Roberge also wrote a memoir a few years ago and self-published it with the help of an editor friend. The book, “A Life Well-Lived,” details many aspects of his long life, including his military service. The following is an excerpt from his memoir about how he joined the U.S. Navy:
“It was 1942 and World War II was ramping up in Europe. It was time for me to enlist with so many other young men and women. However, I took a slightly different route in that I never went to boot camp! Here’s why.
“I was sitting in the middle of a roomful of nervous enlistees at a Boston, Mass., post office on Oct. 29, 1942. A yeoman suddenly opened a door and yelled, “Can anyone out here type?” My hand shot up and I spent the remainder of the day typing 3x5 index cards. At the end of the day, I was given orders to report to Casco Bay, Portland, Maine, in two weeks, where I was to be assigned to the Captain’s office as Yeoman Third Class.
“My duties included logging incoming and outgoing mail. The Casco Bay Station’s mission was to receive Navy personnel from boot camp at Great Lakes for transfer to the destroyers (also known as “tin cans”). During this time, I had an opportunity to take over a newspaper distribution from a sailor who was being transferred. As soon as I saved up $20, I mailed it home to my bride.
“Eventually, my unit was given orders to move out. I was assigned to a radio component unit in Noroton Heights, Conn., for three months of additional training. The duty station was close to New York City. I found a recording studio where I recorded a Christmas song on a wax disc at the USO. It was also fun to see the bright lights of the city.
“Three months later, my unit was ordered to San Francisco, Calif., to await deployment to the Pacific War Theatre. I realized how different this next assignment could be and how much my life could change. However, again, another twist. The atom bomb was dropped. The war was ending. Shortly after, because I was a married sailor, I was among the first of the enlisted men eligible for discharge. While awaiting discharge, my wife joined me and we enjoyed our short stay, elated that soon we could begin our married life as we had imagined and dreamed.
My last duty station was in South Station in Boston, Mass., until my discharge as Yeoman First Class just before Christmas in 1945. I was blessed to be able to return to my hometown of Rutland, Vt., and resume my pre-war employment with Central Vermont Public Service Corporation (now Green Mountain Power).
“It was an honor to be able to serve my country alongside so many other dedicated and brave men and women.”
Lucille Roberge Nadeau weighed in on her Dad, his life and his service.
“I am so proud of my Dad, as a World War II Veteran and for the person he is,” she said. “He was an enterprising young man who seized the opportunity to earn extra money to send home to his new young wife. His dedicated work ethic through the years allowed him to be successful in his career. But more important than that, he offered his friendship and love to so many, the true measure of success. At a young 105 years, he continues to embrace each day, pressing through the challenges and delighting in the joy of what life has given him. It’s not easy keeping up with him!”