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Wisconsin World War II veteran celebrates 98th birthday

Jack Rosenkranz
Posted at 10:08 AM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 12:27:47-04

WINNECONNE (NBC26) — Jack Rosenkranz sees himself as just a normal guy.

"I'm just one of the people in the neighborhood," he said.

His neighbors see him as a living legend.

"He'll say he just did his job," said Al Krueger. "Or, he was no different than anybody else. But the veterans that actually saw combat like he did, I take my hat off 100 times to those guys."

Rosenkranz, an Oshkosh native, graduated from high school on June 11th 1942. The next day, he was in the navy. Serving overseas for four years, he was a tail gunner for an avenger flown off the U.S.S. Yorktown.

"You don't know what's going to happen," he said. "It's an experience I've never gone through before."

Only around two percent of the 16-million American World War II veterans are still alive today, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. After living next to the former navy pilot for 30 years, the Kruegers thought it would be special to celebrate Rosenkranz on this big day, especially since many of the neighbors have received COVID-19 vaccines recently.

"To listen to the stories, and to think all those brave people that never came back, and to think how lucky Jack was," said Al Krueger. "We're lucky that he's here."

When Rosenkranz came back to Northeast Wisconsin after serving, he met his wife, Audrey, who passed away a few years ago. He doesn't plan on leaving any time soon; his children live in the Oshkosh area, and his neighbors have always been family too, he said.

"We've got to take care of each other," said Cindy Krueger. "It doesn't matter if we're not related, or whatever. It's a sense of your community, and community is important because we all need each other."

The secret to living a long and healthy life is taking care of your body and never taking life too seriously, said Rosenkranz.

"I don't feel like 98 at all," he said. "I feel the same. The only thing I got to go by is the date. Otherwise, I feel good."

Rosenkranz plans to spend the rest of his big day relaxing -- after a quick visit to the doctor's office.

"It's just another day," he said. "Another day that I can enjoy. That's about the best way to put it."