‘This is a big day’

World War II veteran celebrates 101st birthday with special flight

Date:

Share post:

For his 101st birthday, Donald Stern flew around the Verrazzano Bridge towards the Freedom Towers and circled the Statue of Liberty in a small aircraft.

The skies are familiar territory for the World War (WW) II Air Force veteran. He flew 32 combat missions in a B-17 Flying Fortress with the 817th Squadron of the 15th Air Force’s 483rd Bombardment Group (H) from January through April 1945. His last combat mission took place on April 24, the day before his 22nd birthday.

- Advertisement -
Photo By Kathy Chang/Staff

When asked what he would like for his 101st birthday, Donald Stern said, “to fly in a small aircraft again.”

Stern, who was born on April 25, 1923, was boosted in with the help members from Robert Wood Johnson emergency medical services. He flew with his son, Russell Stern.

Retired Air Force Major Glenn Sinibaldi, who flew 25 combat missions in Desert Storm, piloted the father and son for the special birthday trip.

Photo By Kathy Chang/Staff

When asked what he would like for his 101st birthday, Donald Stern said, “to fly in a small aircraft again.”

Before takeoff from Central Jersey Regional Airport in Hillsborough on April 25, Hillsborough Township Mayor Robert Britting presented Stern with a proclamation.

“This is a big day,” Britting said. “We are here for different elements in Hillsborough today, but most importantly this is Mr. Stern’s 101st birthday … that is absolutely incredible. To me that is the most important aspect of what we’re doing today.”

Photo By Kathy Chang/Staff

When asked what he would like for his 101st birthday, Donald Stern said, “to fly in a small aircraft again.”

Stern returned home from Europe in the fall of 1945 and earned a degree in architecture from Cooper Union. He soon married his wife, Barbara, and they had two sons, Howard and Russell. In 1960, they settled in the Kendall Park section of South Brunswick. Starting in 1968, he worked as an architect for the state’s Division of Building and Construction (DBC). After 19 years, he retired, having earned the moniker “The Bureaucrat with a Heart.”

In retirement, Stern authored a book on his old military outfit, 483rd Bomb Group (H), where he recounted the combat missions, the intense labor of the crew to repair war-damaged aircrafts to resume flight, and the daily life challenges of life as a WWII soldier.

Photo By Kathy Chang/Staff

When asked what he would like for his 101st birthday, Donald Stern said, “to fly in a small aircraft again.”

He also volunteered to share his WWII experiences with various middle schools, high schools, senior clubs, veterans’ groups and other civic organizations.

When asked what he would like for his 101st birthday, Stern said “to fly in a small aircraft again.”

And that’s what he did. A partnership between the Tri-State Aviation flight school at the Central Jersey Regional Airport and the Brandywine Princeton senior living community where Stern resides helped make his birthday wish come true.

While in air, Stern was about to take control of the plane and guide on how to fly it.

The celebration was formed through Retirement Unlimited Inc.’s company-wide WOW Moment initiative that creates personalized moments for residents and team members that allow them to reminisce on times past, create new memories or be honored in some way.

Along with Stern’s birthday celebration, the day also saw a ribbon cutting and blessing of 3,700 feet of new runway at the airport.

Stay Connected

1,035FansLike
1,678FollowersFollow

Current Issue

Latest News

Related articles

Somerset County adopts ‘fiscally responsible’ budget

The Somerset County Board of County Commissioners adopted its 2024 budget, which Commissioner Director Shanel Y. Robinson described as "fiscally responsible and...

Princeton Police blotter

A 35-year-old Trenton man was arrested on an outstanding warrant from Millstone Township Municipal Court following a motor...

‘Dress up and grab a turkey leg’

Hear ye! Hear ye! Join the New Jersey Renaissance Faire for three more weekends. Faire organizers saw thousands of...

Honoring World War II service

Courtesy of Mercer County Library System Hightstown Memorial Library is dedicated to several local soldiers who died during World...