Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Mount Pleasant Man Who May Be Wisconsin’s Oldest World War II Vet, Dies At 106

Mount Pleasant – Roland “Bud” Pater, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and may have lived to become Wisconsin’s oldest World War II veteran, has died at the age of 106.

Pater died Friday morning at a hospice in Kenosha County, just weeks after celebrating his 106th birthday with friends and visitors at his home in Mount Pleasant.

His caretaker, Keith Kaido, said that Pater’s health deteriorated after the birthday party on October 11.

“All he wanted to do was have a birthday,” Kaido said. “He kept telling me he wanted to make it his birthday. That was his goal.”

With the Veterans Day (Thursday, November 11) approaching in the middle of the holiday season, Pater’s death is making the traditionally gloomy occasion even more so.

Sean Rivers, interim director of the Racine County Veterans Service office, recalled meeting Peter and being influenced by his stories from World War II.

Noting Pater’s exclusivity as Wisconsin’s oldest living veteran, Rivers said his death is a loss to the entire state.

“It will leave a void here – a treasure trove, a piece of history, like Mr. Pater,” Rivers said. But, he adds, “their stories will live on in other people’s memories.”

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Born in Racine in 1915, Pater enjoyed model airplanes as a child. He graduated from Park High School in 1933 and then enlisted in the US Army in 1939 for what author Tom Brokaw would later declare “the greatest generation”.

Serving in the Army Air Corps – the predecessor of today’s US Air Force – he initially wanted to fly. But after discovering that he was not ready for flight, he became a mechanic repairing and maintaining American fighter craft.

When US-led forces fought to stop Adolf Hitler’s forces, Pater was stationed in Europe. He participated in both the Landing on Omaha Beach and Battle of the Bulge on D-Day.

Volunteers in Racine collect donations for Afghan refugees housed at Fort McCoy. The collection also provided support for veterans of the field.

After the war, a lifelong lover of motorcycles, Pater operated a Harley-Davidson dealership in Racine during the 1960s and ’70s.

His wife, Evelyn, died in the 1990s, and he lived at Mount Pleasant with Kaido, a former son-in-law who remained close friends with Pater for more than 40 years.

Kaido, a Vietnam War veteran himself, says he loves Pater as family, and is struggling to come to terms with Pater’s death.

“The world kind of lost,” he said.

thin numbers

Pater’s death occurs when the number of surviving WWII veterans drops from the original 16 million to an estimated 240,000 remaining. According to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, an average of 234 are dying each day of those who served in wars fought between 1939 and 1945.

There are fewer than 4,400 surviving veterinarians from WWII in Wisconsin.

Although no one was completely sure, officials at the museum and the US Department of Veterans Affairs believe that Pater was among the oldest survivors in Wisconsin—if not the oldest.

World War II veteran Roland “Bud” Pater blew a candle on his cake during his 106th birthday party at Mount Pleasant on October 11, attended by Darcy Greuel, a visitor to the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Milwaukee .

Scott Williams

At Pater’s 106th birthday party last month, two visitors from the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Milwaukee turned out to honor her. They brought him a cake and two special medals known as “challenge coins”.

One of them, Ann Nabe, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve, said she would cherish the memory of meeting Pater and hearing his stories from WWII.

“Mr. Peter had a special place in my heart,” she said.

Nabe said she was also impressed to learn that Pater wanted to be an airplane pilot. But after learning that the flight made him ill, he instead found another way to serve his country.

“Everyone contributes to the mission,” she said. “Without him, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The Dredger-Langendorf Funeral Home and Crematorium is helping the family. No details have been announced on funeral services.


Nation World News Desk
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