When asked if he had any big plans for his special day on Monday (Feb. 20), 99-year-old World War II veteran Tom Van Dahm said he and wife of nearly 72 years, Lois, just planned to take it easy.
“We’ll celebrate just by having a nice time at home.”
Well, the rest of Kenosha can celebrate with him.
On Friday morning during the weekly gathering of veterans at the Heroes Cafe, Kenosha County Executive Samantha Kerkman issued a proclamation naming Monday, Feb. 20, 2023 — also Presidents’ Day — as Tom Van Dahm Day in Kenosha, in honor of Van Dahm’s service to the country and his 99th birthday.
Van Dahm also received a certificate of recognition for his 99th birthday from the state of Wisconsin and Gov. Tony Evers and was honored Friday morning at the Heroes Cafe with a birthday cake and a gathering of family, fellow veterans and county leaders.
Friday’s Heroes Cafe gathering also featured bowls of candy that included Kit-Kats, Van Dahm’s favorite candy, and Baby Ruths, in honor of the Van Dahms’ daughter, Ruth.
It was a great way to honor one of the dwindling number of World War II veterans who are still with us. Van Dahm is a regular weekly visitor to the Heroes Cafe.
“It’s such a special place to have the Heroes Cafe here, and Tom does come weekly and hangs out with the other veterans,” said Piasecki Funeral Home public relations/marketing specialist Anne Wasilevich, who teams with Erin Riley to run the weekly gatherings of veterans at the Heroes Cafe.
“So it’s extra special that he’s (a) World War II (veteran), turning 99, and that we can honor him. He’s been in our community for a long time, and we’re just grateful that he’s here.”
Van Dahm served with the U.S. Army and said his service during World War II started in the U.S. before he saw much of Western Europe, going to England, France, Germany and then France again. He said he was with the United States Strategic Air Force and was part of a big behind-the-scenes operation that deployed in Western Europe after the Allied front lines had advanced following the invasion of Normandy.
Born in Chicago, Van Dahm married his beloved wife, Lois, on March 17, 1951, in Holland, Mich., so they will be celebrating their 72nd anniversary in less than a month.
Van Dahm also had a distinguished academic career following his military service. He was a Doctor of Economics at Carthage College from 1964 through 1991.
“I am inspired by Tom,” said Carthage President John Swallow, who was on hand Friday morning to honor Van Dahm. “I am inspired by his long marriage. I am inspired by his service to the country.”
Friday’s celebration included a prayer, the Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem and stirring renditions of the U.S. Army Song and the U.S. Navy Song, “Anchors Aweigh.”
During her proclamation of Tom Dan Dahm Day, Kerkman said everyone is excited to celebrate another big milestone for Van Dahm one year from now.
“We look forward to seeing you on your 100th birthday,” Kerkman said.