By Jeff Smith
CORNING - Gerald Early, a World War II veteran, who served as a Merchant Marine on D-Day, the largest seaborne invasion in history, celebrated his 100th birthday Wednesday.
A special 100th birthday party will be held at 11:30 a.m., Saturday at the Radisson Hotel Corning, according to Jocelyn Niebur, his daughter.
“About 50 people are expected to be at the event with some family members traveling from as far away as London, Texas, Georgia and Chicago,” Niebur said. “Friends and members of the Lions Club and the First Baptist Church will also attend the celebration.”
Early said he is really looking forward to the event.
“I am overwhelmed with my good fortune,” he said.
Early, served as a Merchant Marine from April 1942 until the mid 1950s, scuttling the ship Courageous on D-Day to make a break wall on the beaches of Normandy.
World War II, which lasted from 1939 to 1945, was the deadliest conflict in human history,
He is the father of three children, Jocelyn Niebur, of Cornelius, North Carolina, Craig Early, of Corning and Stewart Early, from New York City and six grandchildren; Allison Niebur, of Fort Worth, Lindsey Niebur of Atlanta, Megan Early of Chicago, Kate Early and Kevin Knorr, of London, and Grace and Charles Early of New York City. He was married to the late Gertrude Early for 54 years.
Early has lived in Corning since 1956, Niebur said. He opened the first coin operated laundry in Steuben County, named the Red Arrow, as well as managing multiple properties as a landlord until the age of 97. His past hobbies included sailing on Seneca Lake and being a member of the Corning Lions for more than 50 years. He is currently a member of The First Baptist Church of Corning.
Early often attended local veterans events and has long called Memorial Day a special time that makes him and many other veterans look back at their time in the military.
“The day just makes me think about all the events and experiences I had in WWII,” Early said. “A lot to remember.”