Othmar “Ott” Jasper, one of Franklin County’s oldest World War II veterans, turned 100 years old Wednesday, July 1, and dozens of well-wishers turned out to celebrate.
Washington VFW Post 2661, the Post’s Auxiliary, Franklin County Honor Flight and Jasper’s family organized a car parade at the VFW in his honor.
It was a surprise for Jasper, a Washington native, who served in the U.S. Army, was wounded twice and received two Purple Hearts.
“I didn’t think I’d make it back to the states!” Jasper said. “And now I’m 100!”
A Washington police officer helped direct traffic from Jefferson Street as the car parade circled through the VFW parking lot and pulled up to the curb where Jasper was seated. Parade participants, including a motorcycle group and a tractor bearing a large American flag, wished Jasper a happy birthday and thanked him for his service to the country, presenting him with cards and presents.
Jasper’s daughter, Carol Riegel, said many of the parade participants did not know Jasper personally, but heard about the event and wanted to show their support. One person, she said, gave Jasper a card and said, “You don’t know us, but we just wanted to say thank you for your service and happy birthday.”
Honor Flight President Rosalie McGaugh said Jasper participated in the annual Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., a few years ago. Since the trip was canceled this year due to COVID-19, “We just decided tohonor him here,” she said.
Jasper, who served from 1941 to 1945, is one of an estimated 300,000 U.S. World War II vets still living.
He was one of eight children. He and his five brothers served in the Army during the war, and all returned home.
Jasper said when he shipped out to Europe and passed the Statue of Liberty, he thought, “So long, old girl, we’ll never see each other again.”
Jasper landed with his unit at Utah Beach in 1944. The unit fought through France, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Germany. He served as a tank gunner and earned seven medals, including two Purple Hearts, the first for an injury to his foot in 1944, and the second for an injury to his head in 1945. He was in the hospital for his second injury when he received the news the war had ended.
After he returned home, Jasper married Marie Kopp Nov. 8, 1947. He worked as a drill operator for Ed’s Drilling and Blasting in Krakow, until he retired in his mid-70s.
Marie passed away about seven years ago. She and Jasper had seven children. Riegel said at the parade, “He’s the greatest. I love him.”
When asked what advice he would give to others, Jasper said the key to a good life is, “Be good to everyone.”
Jasper’s friend and co-founder of the Franklin County Honor Flight Jim Tayon said, with tears in his eyes, “Without people like Ott, we wouldn’t have America. He is America.”