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Friends, Partners, Allies: 100th Birthday Celebration with WWII Veteran James South in Texas

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November 13, 2019

Canada has fought alongside the U.S. in defence of our common values through World Wars I and II, the Cold War, Korea, the Balkans, the Middle East, and, in the aftermath of 9/11 in Afghanistan. For over sixty years, Canadian and American Armed Forces have jointly defended North America at the bi-national North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD). For seventy years, our two countries have contributed to global peace and security through NATO. So when our Consulate General of Canada in Dallas saw that WWII Veteran James South would be celebrating his 100th birthday at his assisted-living retirement home in nearby Watauga, the team found a way to wish him a very special Happy Birthday in person.

The Consulate General did have a hint. Mr. South, who served in Iceland, France, England and beyond, had “gone viral” on social media after posting his wish to receive 100 birthday cards on the occasion of his personal centennial. To his own astonishment, media and the general public responded with an overwhelming outpouring of generosity – and a non-stop flood of birthday cards from well-wishers everywhere. His son’s garage was converted into a temporary post office for over 80,000 cards received from all over the world.

That social media post, shared by Canadian military in Washington, did not go unnoticed by the Dallas Foreign Policy and Diplomacy Service team. Within hours, the team had secured an appointment to visit the James South at his assisted-living facility, confirmed and ordered his favourite type of cake (carrot), circulated and gift-wrapped a beautifully illustrated coffee table book about Canada for signature by each member of the staff, and travelled some 30 miles out of Dallas to celebrate and commemorate a milestone in the life of a World War II veteran. The team thanked Mr. South for his service on behalf of Canada and spent time with him as he regaled his Canadian visitors with colorful stories of his long military service, a life-long love story, and his commitment to serve and defend the values shared by Canada and the United States.

James South gave the Canada-U.S. defence relationship a human face on his one hundredth birthday. At 100, James South remains, in his own son’s words, “as sharp as a tack”. He and his family will be special invited guests of the Consulate General of Canada in Dallas when the award-winning Broadway musical, Come From Away, comes to town (and seven other cities across the Consulate’s territory) in 2020. As for his birthday cards? He was still counting when the Consulate team left.

The Consulate General participated in additional Remembrance Day activities honoring all veterans on November 11, including an engagement at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma and the Remembrance Day Parade in Dallas.