POPERINGE, Belgium (AP) — Even though there were no major ceremonies across Europe, British veteran George Sutherland turned a determined walk into his own parade on Victory in Europe Day.
The 98-year-old veteran laced up his best walking shoes to raise funds for a soldiers’ club in Flanders Field, which has been a home away from home for soldiers and veterans from two world wars over the past century.
Because of the coronavirus crisis, Talbot House in west Belgium’s Poperinge is short of funds to keep their operation going and has been seeking 100,000 euros ($110,000) to survive.
Sutherland was born nearby, the fruit of love between a Belgian mother and his Scottish father who fought there during World War I. He has always been close to the region and its history, but went to Britain during World War II and was a mechanic for the Royal Air Force.
In balmy morning weather, Sutherland walked part of the way between the World War I cemetery and Talbot House in the center of Poperinge, cheered on by people hanging out their window or standing in the doorway.
“I knew I could do it because I am very fit,” he said.
Knowing the century-old institution needed the money, Sutherland took a cue from Tom Moore, the British army veteran who started walking laps in his garden ahead of his 100th birthday as part of a fundraiser for the National Health Service and generated millions of pounds within days.
In Poperinge, the ambitions were more humble. Since Sutherland announced his intentions, funding has increased by about 10,000 euros ($11,000) and now the total already stands at 82,000 euros ($89,000).
“We are hoping that George’s walk will now close the final gap,” Talbot House manager Simon Louagie said.
Follow AP’s coverage marking the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe at https://apnews.com/WorldWarII