VFW Post 8154, in Zephyrhills, was packed with people to celebrate Edward Bruno’s 100th birthday on Oct. 12.
“I think he will be absolutely stunned to see how many people have come out today to honor him and celebrate his birthday,” said Suzanne Ahmad, his niece.
And, so he was.
“It’s a surprise to me,” said Bruno, a decorated U.S. Marine Corps veteran, during an event that attracted relatives, devoted friends and dignitaries.
He sat at a long table, in a chair festooned with balloons, donning a birthday crown emblazoned with the number 100.
Like many of his fellow VFW members in the room, he also wore a signature red polo shirt.
Friends and relatives swarmed him, giving him hugs and handshakes, and taking photos of him.
VFW dignitaries took to the stage, offering their birthday wishes, as Bruno relaxed, taking occasional sips of his wine.
Fellow Marine veteran Glenn Shaw, who lives in Zephyrhills, welcomed the crowd.
His eyes welled with tears as he spoke about his friendship with Bruno.
“I go to his house at least once a week. If nobody makes his bed, I make his bed for him. [I] do little things around the house for him. He’s a good man. He’s my buddy,” Shaw said.
State Rep. Randy Maggard was there, too, to help celebrate the day.
“This is a special event and a special time. Truly he has epitomized the spirit of those we call the greatest generation,” said Maggard, who represents District 38 in the Florida House of Representatives.
Bruno’s extended family sat near him during the celebration, including nieces, a younger sister, a grandson and a daughter-in-law.
They celebrated Bruno’s 100 years of life, which began when he was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1919.
He grew up there, in a family of 13 children.
He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in 1942, at the height of World War II.
The same year, he fought in the Battle of Guadalcanal, and earned a Bronze Medal.
As his military career progressed, he served as a drill sergeant and was stationed in Guadalcanal, New Guinea, Georgia and Cape Gloucester.
“I think he’s always been very proud of his service, his devotion to his family and country,” Ahmad said.
Longevity is a family trait, she added.
However, while enjoying a lengthy life, Bruno has outlived his wife, Barbara, and his only son, Bobby.
There have been challenges, too.
He had to be fitted with a prosthetic leg, after an accident in a factory.
But, he always has made the best of his situations, Ahmad said.
And, his example has been a life lesson for her, she added.
Bruno’s two other nieces, Paulette Kline and Louise Cantwell, also were at the party, reminiscing fondly about their uncle.
“We would have a lot of happy memories of being in his home,” Kline said, “and [he was] always a very gracious host and very loving.”
She said her uncle helped her to develop a sense of gratitude.
Cantwell recalled that at family gatherings, Bruno and her other uncles would talk about growing up during the Great Depression.
She said it reinforced the importance of being there for one another.
“The solidarity is what we get from it. The family solidarity – to be together when we can and help each other when we can,” Cantwell said.
She also noted his upbeat attitude.
“He’s always got a positive outlook,” Cantwell said. “He just kept on being the same happy person.”
Plus, she mentioned, Bruno has been quite a “chick magnet,” and that’s still true today.
“At 100 years old, he can still get the women to come give him attention,” she said, laughing.
The nieces also agreed that their uncle also has an excellent sense of humor.
Besides offering kind words of congratulations, VFW members also gave Bruno gifts to mark the occasion.
They gave him a framed plaque, a case holding a certificate for his service and a Tervis tumbler cup engraved with his name.
But, Bruno wasn’t the only one celebrating a birthday that day.
Jack Henry Dias was celebrating, too. He shares Bruno’s birthday, and he was turning age 1.
Bruno held little Dias in his lap, while people took photos.
The pictures kept coming, as Bruno was helped outdoors by his grandson, Eric, before partaking in a special meal.
There, Bruno posed with his family and caregivers in front of a big military truck.
They were creating yet another memento, to celebrate Bruno’s century’s worth of life experiences.
Published October 23, 2019