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'He felt like a celebrity': Rockwall shows up big to help Navy veteran celebrate 100th birthday

Pandemic parades are becoming the norm to help people celebrate milestones. Harvey Ladd's might take the cake.

ROCKWALL, Texas — "I want to live to be 100."

Ever heard someone say that before? I remember the first time it was uttered out of someone's mouth. I was in kindergarten and it was the 100th day of school when some kid in gym class yelled that it was his life goal. 

I didn't realize how many times I'd hear that phrase as I went through life. 

Put simply, living to be 100 is an impressive feat. Just imagine 100 years from now and what you might possibly see. 

It was a question I pondered when I started talking to Harvey Ladd's family for this story. 

Credit: Ladd Family
Current photo of Harvey Ladd.

The newfound centenarian living in Rockwall celebrated his 100th birthday on Wednesday. 

April 15, 1920. That's the day he was born in Chicago, Illinois. He's one of four children of a Russian immigrant and a first-generation American. 

He was around for the invention of the television, the Great Depression, the sudden prevalence of the automobile, several wars, and the internet. 

Credit: Ladd Family
Ladd as a child.

He even served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Ladd found himself in Texas. He was a reserve officer for the Dallas Police Department and found a niche working in both the airline and textile industry. 

Quite a life. But I can't imagine celebrating your 100th birthday during a pandemic. 

And neither could Meredith Fox, Ladd's neighbor. 

Fox became close friends with Ladd simply because of Texas A&M. Whoop! Am I supposed to say that? I graduated from Baylor. Maybe I should delete it. 

In 2001, Fox left College Station with a degree and a lot of friends. One of them was Reagan Dunkin, the granddaughter of Ladd. 

When she decided to buy a house and settle down in Rockwall, she unknowingly moved into Ladd's neighborhood.

She gasped when Harvey and his wife Rila first came over to introduce themselves. 

"When he said his last name, I told him that I had a friend at A&M who had that last name!" Fox said. "It was just a connection that sticks."

Credit: Ladd Family
Ladd in the Navy.

Being a good neighbor, Fox recently learned that Ladd would be turning 100 and that Dunkin (who lives in Houston) would likely not be able to attend (no thanks to COVID-19). 

So, Fox organized a website called harveyshundredth.com. It included a place to send Ladd a card, and a date and time to swing by his home for a 100th birthday parade on Wednesday.

"She shared everything like crazy on Facebook," Dunkin said. "That's just Meredith's heart. She's going to do anything that she can to help someone." 

"And man the town really jumped on it." 

While sitting on the corner near his house, friends, neighbors, police officers, firefighters, and several auto clubs drove by honking and waving to wish Ladd a happy birthday. 

The auto clubs drove by in classic and souped-up cars because Ladd is a bit of a gearhead. 

Credit: Ladd Family
Ladd posed for a photo with the top down.

"Unbelievable, all of this," Ladd was heard saying during the parade. "It's fantastic." 

Dunkin said that her grandfather was like a kid again. 

"He told my grandmother that he felt like a celebrity!" Dunkin said with a laugh. "So, mission accomplished." 

Oh, and remember the cards I mentioned? Fox said that she received over 200 and some were from different countries. 

Fox showed Dunkin all the well wishes on paper directed to her grandfather via video chat Thursday afternoon. 

"He called me last night Meredith and he was just giggling saying he didn't know what to do that he was so popular," Dunkin said. 

"Awwww yay!" Fox said. 

Of course, the classic question every centenarian gets is an inquiry about the secret to life. 

Dunkin took the lead on that. 

"I just think that he's just really still in awe of life and what we've been given," Dunkin said. "And I think that's really special." 

What we've been given, currently, is a pretty rough situation worldwide. 

But we've also been given time, and Fox didn't waste a moment when she had the chance to make someone's day. 

"It's not that often that people can say they've reached a hundred," Fox said. 

"It's fun to celebrate others. That's the joy."

Credit: Ladd Family
Ladd with his wife Rila.

Fox asked WFAA to thank a few people in her own words for helping celebrate Mr. Ladd: 

Johnathan McClintock at Harbor Mail in Rockwall donated the PMB for Mr. Ladd

Jared Schweers of Key Element Media donated the website http://www.Harveyshundredth.com

Samee Dowlatshahi of Pizza Getti donated dinner for Mr. & Mrs. Ladd on his birthday!

Austin Wells of Blue Ribbon News did an article so that people would get info & send b-day cards to Mr. Ladd!

More on WFAA: 

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