A Jacksonville gym celebrated a World War II veteran who turned 99 years old Wednesday.
John Connelly was surprised by gym staff and fellow gym members as they sang “Happy Birthday” to him at the EnerGym North Jax on North Main Street.
“Someone loves me out there,” Connelly said.
Connelly fought in World War II, as part of the Air Corps, and is one of the last surviving veterans who fought in that war.
“I had to be on the team. I was an athlete and always had to make a team. I had to be on that team. I would’ve felt like half a man if I could not serve,” Connelly said.
Connelly also shared he was a prisoner of war. He said was captured in Germany when he was 19 years old in 1945 and was held captive for 10 months before being released in 1946.
According to Jacob Wulff, the gym’s marketing director, Connelly has been a gym member for nearly two decades. He works out at least three days a week.
“Committed, hardworking,” Wulff described Connelly. “That’s something you don’t see from people that are a quarter his age.”
Wulff said the gym will place a flag and a monument with Connelly’s name on it as a way to honor the loyal member.
“We felt that it was really important to leave behind a legacy for future generations to have a place to remember his sacrifices, and have his name, forever part of a monument where we can remember him, and all the hard work that he put in, his dedication,” Wulff said.
Happy birthday, Mr. Connelly!