103-year-old World War II veteran honored during Whately’s Memorial Day event

Honor guard members from the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Honor guard members from the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Members of the Frontier Regional School band march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday, May 26.

Members of the Frontier Regional School band march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday, May 26. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

A member of the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 honor guard salutes after placing a wreath at the Whately War Memorial during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

A member of the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 honor guard salutes after placing a wreath at the Whately War Memorial during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Honor guard members from the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Honor guard members from the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295 march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Whately resident Levi Schrader, 4, gets a shoulder ride from his father, Jake Schrader, during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Whately resident Levi Schrader, 4, gets a shoulder ride from his father, Jake Schrader, during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Members of the Whately Grange, the Whately Congregational Church and the Whately Recreation Commission march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Members of the Whately Grange, the Whately Congregational Church and the Whately Recreation Commission march during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Ray Billiel, post commander of the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295, salutes during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Ray Billiel, post commander of the Hale-Clapp Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3295, salutes during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Whately resident and World War II veteran Walter Harubin, 103, waves while participating in Whately’s Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Whately resident and World War II veteran Walter Harubin, 103, waves while participating in Whately’s Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

Whately resident and World War II veteran Walter Harubin, 103, center, is presented the National Grange’s Patriots Award by Grange members James Martin, left, of Chesterfield and Ruth Leahey, of Whately, during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday.

Whately resident and World War II veteran Walter Harubin, 103, center, is presented the National Grange’s Patriots Award by Grange members James Martin, left, of Chesterfield and Ruth Leahey, of Whately, during the Whately Memorial Day parade on Sunday. FOR THE GAZETTE/CHRISTOPHER EVANS

By LIESEL NYGARD

For the Gazette

Published: 05-26-2024 5:04 PM

Modified: 05-26-2024 6:05 PM


WHATELY — While Whately’s annual Memorial Day parade came and went as is tradition on Sunday, this year’s proceedings marked a particularly special occasion for World War II veteran Walter Harubin.

Harubin, 103, was honored as Whately’s oldest veteran with the National Grange Patriots Award. The award was presented by Massachusetts State Grange Veterans Committee member James Martin and Whately Grange President Ruth Leahey during the town’s Memorial Day event, which kicked off with a parade starting from the First Congregational Church.

Sitting across from Whately’s War Memorial, Harubin recounted his memories of World War II between 1941, at which time he was 21 years old, and 1945.

“I tried to enlist as a flyer, but because I was colorblind I wasn’t accepted,” Harubin explained. “I joined the Seabees. ... I was mad at the Japanese for what they did [during Pearl Harbor]. ... I thought it’d be better if I chose my profession. I’d rather be in the Navy than be a doughboy.”

During his time of service, Harubin said there were “some ups and downs,” with the “ups” being that he wasn’t in combat 100% of the time, even though he was the closest to Japan during 1942.

“I never realized that until I got out of the service. ... I was lucky to be alive,” he said.

As a young Hatfield resident in his early 20s, Harubin enjoyed hunting and fishing. Once he returned from the war, he moved to Whately and eagerly resumed his cherished outdoor activities.

In 1947, he married his wife, Alexandria, who died 14 years ago at the age of 85. During World War II, Harubin said his wife was a riveter in a factory that worked on B-17 aircraft.

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“She was one in a million,” Harubin said. “She took good care of me.”

After Harubin received the National Grange Patriots Award on Sunday, a group of children presented him with paper cutouts that showed “103” and “WWII.” The flag was then raised from half to full staff. As the flag waved in the breeze, Frontier Regional School’s band performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” along with other songs such as “This Land is Your Land.”

Many attendees of the Memorial Day event, which is organized by the Whately Grange, approached Harubin to shake his hand and thank him for his service.

“I’m living life to the fullest,” Harubin said. “I am such a lucky person to be alive today.”