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VIDEO | Celebrating 100 with WWII veteran Wally Ritterbusch

West Bend, Wi – A mighty strong group of veterans from Jackson American Legion Post 486 gathered in West Bend on February 29, 2024, to help World War II veteran Wally Ritterbusch celebrate his 100th birthday. There was cake, camaraderie, and, of course, shots of Bailey’s Irish Creme whiskey.

From the moment the TV station arrived to his pals from the Legion Post piling into his living room on Tamarack Court, Ritterbusch was smiling. Celebrating with friends was what made 100 memorable.

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“He is a World War II hero quite frankly,” said veteran John Wagie. “He’s a very humble man, very kind and we appreciate everything he’s done for our country and our veterans.”

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Ritterbusch was born in 1924.  A large banner on the wall, surrounded by Mylar balloons, described the trends from the 1920’s including: An attractive woman was referred to as “Hotsy Totsy” and it was the year New York City held its first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

For his friends, it was just nice to get together with the crew. Ritterbusch, and fellow WWII veteran Darold Hoelz, have been longstanding members of the American Legion – for over 78 years.

WWII vets Darold Hoelz & Wally Ritterbusch – 75 years at Jackson American Legion 486 in 2021

“We actually went to Rockfield Grade School together,” said Hoelz. “We lost touch until we came back to the Legion; we’re both charter members of the post in Jackson.”

Hoelz a Navy vet who served 1944 – 1946 echos the feeling in the room describing Ritterbusch as a hero. “He’s 2-and-a-half-years older than I am and he was at Normandy on Omaha Beach on D-Day; that’s quite a thing,” he said.

It was in June 1943 when Ritterbusch was 18 that he was drafted into the U.S. Navy. He was a petty officer machinist and worked on the Landing Craft, Tanks (LCT).

Daughter Dina Ritterbusch was overjoyed with the turnout of Legion members. “He’s really involved in the Legion, and it touches his heart to have everybody here and to recognize him,” she said.  “I’m just so grateful for everybody; it’s overwhelming and in a good way.”

“Wally turning 100 is just so special,” said Legion member Janis Sierra.

“You imagine all the all the things he has seen in his lifetime, it’s fantastic,” said Legion member Reno Dippmann. “All the way from horse and buggy to the moon; that’s amazing.”

There were a number of informal ceremonies including singing the traditional ‘Happy Birthday to you…. and many more….’ to presenting a Certificate of Appreciation for Ritterbusch’s years of outstanding service from the Legion’s District 2 Commander Charlie Young.

“When you’re 100 years old and you’ve been in the Legion for over 75 years… that’s a milestone,” said Legion President Mike Riebe.

Wally Ritterbusch downs a shot on his 100th birthday

The special day wrapped up with a toast and a shot of whiskey.  “Give it a good home….”

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Click HERE to read more about Wally’s service on the LCT during WWII

Wally Ritterbusch celebrating 100 with fellow Legionnaires from Post 486

Wendy Wendorf

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