Saturday, December 22, 2007

Oldest American WWI Veteran Dies

Oldest US WWI veteran dies at 109

The oldest American World War I veteran has died in Ohio aged 109, leaving only two known US soldiers from the conflict still alive.

J Russell Coffey died on Thursday, according to a nursing home in the town of North Baltimore.

Mr Coffey enlisted in the army in October 1918, about a month before the Allies and Germany agreed a ceasefire, and did not see action.

Harry Landis, 108, and Frank Buckles, 106, are the surviving US veterans.

More than 4.7 million Americans enlisted in the military between 1917 and 1918.

University degrees

Mr Coffey was born on 1 September 1898 and was a semi-professional baseball player.

His two older brothers fought and he initially expressed disappointment at missing out on action although he told Associated Press in April 2007: "I think I was good to get out of it."

He was discharged a month after the end of the war and returned to Ohio State University, where he earned two degrees.

Mr Coffey's daughter Betty Jo Larsen, who died in September, had previously told AP her father would rather be remembered for his life contributions rather than his old age.

"He told me 'even a prune can get old'," she said.

Gaye Boggs, nursing director at the Briar Hill Health Campus nursing home, said Mr Coffey's health had been failing since October but no cause of death had yet been determined.

The US Veterans Affairs Department lists Mr Buckles of Charles Town, West Virginia, and Mr Landis, of Sun City Center, Florida, as the only World War I US veterans known to still be alive.

Only one Canadian veteran, John Babcock, 107, who lives in Spokane, Washington, is still alive.
Via the Beeb

More info about surviving World War One veterans.

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