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'Rowdy' Ramara veteran gets drive-by birthday surprise (8 photos)

'He’s a wonderful man who hit Juno Beach at age 19 and has been doing things for other people all his life,' says organizer of drive-by parade

Not much surprises Second World War veteran Harold “Rowdy” Rowden, but he didn’t see this coming.

The Ramara resident watched as dozens of friends paraded past his home in their vehicles Sunday, led by township firefighters, to celebrate his 96th birthday.

“This is something else,” Rowden said. “It’s a complete surprise. I can’t believe it. God bless you all.”

It was an occasion his friends, family and neighbours weren’t going let pass without some kind of recognition.

“He’s a wonderful man who hit Juno Beach at age 19 and has been doing things for other people all his life,” said Jean Earl, who helped organize the drive-by celebration.

Rowden, she noted, makes his rounds at schools in the area on Remembrance Day and he’s always eager to give to charity. A skilled craftsman, he often builds tables and gives them to churches so they can sell them to raise money.

That generosity is no surprise to those who know him. After all, his philosophy is, in his own words, “if you can’t do something good, don’t do anything.”

Friends said Rowden was more than deserving of Sunday’s celebration, especially because he fought for his country and the world.

Rowden, who was born in Port Hope, landed on Juno Beach in France on D-Day in 1944, four years after he’d enlisted. He was a dispatch rider with the 13th Field Regiment and has received eight medals for his service. He has even been named a Knight of the French National Order of the Legion of Honour in recognition of his efforts to liberate the country from the Nazis.

Asked how he planned to celebrate his birthday, Rowden said, “I’m gonna drink beer and get half-drunk.”

Click here to see a video interview of Rowden that was conducted by an Orillia Secondary School student as part of a history project.

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is an experienced multimedia journalist and editor who covers Orillia and other parts of Simcoe County.
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