Peoria veteran celebrates 108th birthday, becomes the fourth oldest veteran in the country

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Steve Ferri said he’s been waiting 108 years for this day.

Friends and staff at Independence Village Senior Living Center honored Ferri with a drive-by parade, balloons, and cards Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re really excited to celebrate him today,” said Juliana Jordan, the executive director at Independence Village.

Leaders from the Greater Peoria Honor Flight said he is now the oldest living veteran in Illinois and the fourth oldest in the country. Ferri said he enjoyed the celebrations.

“They’re so nice, so considerate. I love them all,” said Ferri.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, they found a way to make him feel special.

“With COVID, we’ve obviously had to take the party outside. We’d normally have a huge party for him inside,” said Jordan.

People drove by with signs, balloons, and cards. The Richwoods High School marching band performed and local veterans wished him a happy birthday too.

“He said, ‘Well I’ve been waiting 108 years for this’,” said Jordan.

Over the years, Ferri has learned a lot. He served in the Coast Guard from 1939 to 1945. It’s an experience that helped shape his life.

For his birthday, he shared his secret to longevity.

“Keep breathing,” said Ferri.

He also gave advice to young people.

“Be kind. Be kind to others and they’ll be kind to you,” said Ferri.

Leaders at Independence Village say they’re planning on making this an annual tradition.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Ferri.

Ferri also enjoyed a corn beef hash breakfast as a part of his big day.

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