U.S. Navy veteran William E. Locke Sr., who turned 100 years old and State Sen. Joan Lovely (Spenser Hasak)

World War II veteran turns 100 in Peabody

PEABODY — The Brooksby Village Veterans group held a surprise birthday celebration Friday in honor of resident and U.S. Navy veteran William E. Locke Sr., who turned 100 years old on Thursday. 

State Sen. Joan Lovely (D-Salem) was in attendance and presented a citation to Locke on behalf of the Senate, which honored him for his achievements. House Speaker Ronald Mariano and Gov. Charlie Baker were not in attendance, but sent their congratulations. State Rep. Thomas Walsh (D-Peabody) also made an appearance. Together with state Rep. Sally Kerans (D-Danvers), they also had citations for the veteran.

Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt Jr. sent his congratulations through a video and had a Peabody T-shirt and blanket delivered for the ceremony, which was held at Brooksby Village Senior Living Community's MacIntosh Building.  

While approximately 60 attendees were on hand to mark the milestone, Locke made it clear that he wasn't too impressed with what many others might consider an accomplishment. 

“You people act as if this was something great," Locke told his fellow veterans. "I'll let you in on a little secret. Anyone can be 100; all you have to do is wake up each morning.”

Locke, an Everett native, was born in 1921. He graduated from Everett High School in 1940, then enlisted and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He served overseas in Europe, with most of his time devoted to working with the repair unit in the British Isle. 

“We repaired ships that were damaged in the convoy,” said Locke. “I came over in a convoy that lost a few ships because the submarines were chasing us, but we were very fortunate to make it out of there” 

There were plans for Locke to be deployed during World War II, but these plans disintegrated when the U.S dropped two nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of 1945; days later, Japan surrendered to the Allies. 

Locke served for three years in the Navy before returning to Massachusetts. Upon returning home, he started to work as an apprentice plumber in the Boston Navy Yard. He also enrolled at Fitchburg State University, where he studied to be a math and industrial arts teacher. After he graduated, he became a teacher for the City of Medford. He later moved on to Winchester, where he taught for 25 years in the town's school district at the McCall Junior High School. 

Locke and his wife, Barbara (Breslow of Lynn), settled in Reading, where they raised six children. He was very active with the town and was a member of multiple boards and committees, including the Board of Assessors, which he served off and on as chairman. He is currently the oldest and longest-tenured member of the Thomson Country Club in North Reading, which he joined with his family in 1964.

Seven years ago, Locke's wife died, which led to him moving to Brooksby. Locke quickly made friends and discovered the Brooksby Veterans. He plays golf and shuffleboard almost every week with neighbors and friends. 

“He is a member of the greatest generation," said Steve Patten, Peabody's director of veterans services, who organized the event. "He lived through so much history, yet he is so humble and kind." 

More Stories From Peabody