New Bedford World War 2 Vet Laid to Rest on His 100th Birthday
The last time Tony Oliveira was interviewed on Fun 107 was the 75th anniversary of D-Day. He was a young, spry 97 years old. The morning show was doing a broadcast from downtown that morning. We were at Greasy Luck. We watched in awe as he pulled up in his car, parked it across the street, fed the meter and quickly crossed the street, avoiding traffic. Oliveira drove himself to the interview and was an incredible guest, sharing his story about how he enlisted in the military the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed.
I had the pleasure of DJ'ing Oliveira's 100th birthday party two weeks ago. His family had wanted to celebrate his milestone birthday on the actual day (today), but Tony informed them that he already had plans that day. He would be celebrating with his friends, so they'd have to pick a different day.
Following his wishes, they selected the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Oliveira's children, grandchildren and great grandchildren all gathered at the Century House. On display was the flag that was flown in his honor at the Capitol Building in Washington D.C., along with proclamations from Congress, the Massachusetts State House, and the City of New Bedford.
The proclamations outlined Oliveira's service in the military, the railroad, and as an active World War II veteran. While these things were all important to him, Oliveira was all about his family. Family is what came first.
At the end of his birthday party, surrounded by family, Oliveira came up to me and rattled off about 10 jokes in a row. His timing was flawless and it was all fresh material. He remembered listening to me as I did my show on top of the McDonald's on Hathaway Road. We were raising money for renovations at the Buttonwood Park Zoo. That was over 20 years ago, but he shared that memory with me, unsolicited, like it happened yesterday.
The day after his party, Tony Oliveira suffered a stroke. He refused to accept much treatment. He had lived a full life and had zero regrets. He passed away last week. In the end, he gave his family one final gift. If he hadn't have been "busy" on his actual birthday, they would have all missed out on that one final gathering to honor him.
He was laid to rest today at Pine Grove Cemetery in New Bedford, 100 years to the day after he was born.
After the services, at a luncheon at the aptly-named Century House, his family sang "Happy Birthday" to him one last time. His birthday gift? One hundred years of love and happiness.
Can't get a much better than that.