More than a year later, birthday card callout for WW II vet turns into something much bigger

When 101-year-old Fred Arsenault held up a sign wishing for 100 cards for his 100th birthday last year, he had no idea what he was in for.

His son Ron’s shed has now turned into somewhat of a museum. Not only is it storing more than 100,000 cards, but Fred has also been sent art, plaques, quilts and sparked the sharing of stories about veterans around the globe.

“He’s getting cards constantly, they’ve never stopped over the 2 years,” Ron said.

“He’s received cards from The Tenors, Saturday Night Live, the CEO of Rolls Royce, sports celebrities,” Ron Arsenault said, adding Kate Middleton’s mother, Carole, also sent him a lovely note.

Fred has made international headlines and international friends. One woman in the Netherlands sings to him every weekend on Facetime. Ron Arsenault says what resonates with him most are the stories people are sharing, and hearing about classrooms across Canada recognizing veterans through Fred’s card campaign.

“He just loves reading letters from young people,” Ron said.

Second World War veteran Fred Arsenault, left, turned 101 on March 6. His son Ron, right, says since their social media post went viral last year, they’ve connected with people around the world. (CBC News)

The idea first came to Ron because he knew mail was something that once brought his father comfort when he was serving in the Second World War.

“He would receive very few letters from his mom when he was in the service and he would read them in the middle of the night from the trenches,” he said.

“When he moved in with us in 2009, the mail would come and he was the first one to get it.”

He has a lot of mail to read now.

Fred will be participating in a virtual Remembrance Day ceremony this year from Sunnybrook Hospital. Ron said it was difficult not being able to visit him during the height of the pandemic, but being able to read the cards together over Facetime kept Fred sharp, and happy.

Ron Arsenault says the greatest thing that can continue to come out of this movement is more people remembering  the veterans.

“It’s about all the veterans, that’s why I hope we keep this going … we need to remember.”

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