Second World War veteran Fred Arsenault, who asked for 100 birthday cards, dies at 101

·2 min read
Joseph Alfred 'Fred' Arsenault, born on March 6, 1920 in Prince Edward Island, died on the weekend. He is pictured here with his request for 100 cards for his 100th birthday. Arsenault served during the Second World War. (Grant Linton/CBC - image credit)
Joseph Alfred 'Fred' Arsenault, born on March 6, 1920 in Prince Edward Island, died on the weekend. He is pictured here with his request for 100 cards for his 100th birthday. Arsenault served during the Second World War. (Grant Linton/CBC - image credit)

A Canadian Second World War veteran who made international headlines when he asked for 100 cards on his 100th birthday has died.

Joseph Alfred "Fred" Arsenault, born on March 6, 1920 in Prince Edward Island, received more than 100,000 cards from people around the world after his request in February 2020. He died in Toronto over the weekend. He was 101.

"Canada has lost a National Treasure," his son, Ron Arsenault, wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"Dad you are, and always will be my Hero. You have touched people from all walks of life, from all over the world. You will never be forgotten. We Will Remember," the post continued.

"You were the best Dad anyone could ask for. I am so proud to call you Dad, you are from The Greatest Generation."

Arsenault, a private in the Canadian army, served with the Cape Breton Highlanders. The infantry regiment was involved in the liberation of the Netherlands and the Italian campaign.

That birthday wish for 100 cards won him friends in many countries. He received art, quilts, plaques and a pair of wooden shoes, had trees planted in his honour and even a street named after him.

According to his son, receiving mail was important to Arsenault.

"He would receive very few letters from his mom when he was in the service and he would read them in the middle of the night from the trenches," Ron Arsenault told CBC News in November 2021.

"When he moved in with us in 2009, the mail would come and he was the first one to get it."

In a tweet on Tuesday, the Royal Canadian Legion noted his death, saying it was "saddened" by the news.

"Join us in gratitude for his service to Canada," the legion wrote.

Toronto Mayor John Tory paid tribute to Arsenault on Twitter as well.

"My condolences to the family and friends of Second World War veteran Fred Arsenault following his passing, just a few weeks before his 102nd birthday," Tory wrote.

"I'm glad he was able to know how many people appreciated his story and his service and shared that with him through cards…"

According to a Facebook post by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 005 , Arsenault operated a farm for years after his time in the army. He had six cows, three horses and a tractor, the post quotes him as saying.

Arsenault married his wife Yvonne, they had two sons and moved to Toronto where they raised their family. He returned to PEI when he retired.

In 2019, he moved into the Sunnybrook Veterans Centre. There, he was presented with the 75th anniversary coin of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 005.

Due to the pandemic, there will not be a service, according to his son, who thanked the health-care workers at Sunnybrook who cared for his dad.

"R.I.P. SIR," he wrote.

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