‘Captain Jack’: Local veteran celebrates 98th birthday

Published 7:00 am Saturday, June 15, 2024

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NATCHEZ — U.S. Veteran John “Captain Jack” Kerwin, who served 25 years total in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, recently celebrated his 98th birthday, or as he put it, “I’m now pushing 99.”

Friends of Kerwin gathered last Sunday at the Miss-Lou Military Museum at 107 Jefferson Davis Blvd., where they celebrated Kerwin and remembered their dearly departed friend G. Mark LaFrancis, a fellow veteran who founded the museum and died late Friday, June 7. Kerwin offered a moment of silence for LaFrancis before cutting into his birthday cake.

“He was a friend. A close friend,” Kerwin said.

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Lt. Col. Larry Smith said the museum which hosted the party meant a lot to LaFrancis and will “continue to honor his memory through continued support to veterans, their families and the hometown community of Natchez.”

The museum operates regular hours on Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and on special weekends.

Kerwin and his friends celebrated in good spirits as he sang Strip Polka and exchanged fond memories.

Kerwin is well-known as the veteran who walks for a mile every day carrying a cane on his shoulders through heat and rain and as a teacher of archery, hunter’s safety and tai chi classes to seniors and young scouts and 4-H club members, which he still does in his ripe age.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise almost like a dance that can be used for health and meditation.

Kerwin also gives great hugs, at least to all the ladies who came to call on his birthday.