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Local WWII veteran to receive special honor

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 2:42 PM CDT
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SEYMOUR, Wis. (WBAY) - A local World War Two veteran will celebrate his 96th birthday Saturday with quite the honor.

After growing up on a farm in Pepin County, Ollie Lerum served in the Pacific during World War II as an Army platoon leader in the 31st Infantry.

“Our motto was ‘Follow Me,’ so our life expectancy was not the greatest, and of course what saved me was, Harry dropped the bomb,” Ollie recalls.

Back home, Ollie went to college and it didn’t take long after to land a job in Appleton.

“I graduated from River Falls on Sunday the 31st of May, and I started work at the vocational school the next day, June 1st, and I always say I haven’t had a day off since,” jokes Ollie.

Ollie also immediately joined the reserves, and within a few days marched in Appleton’s very first Flag Day Parade.

He remembers realizing something that day.

“I like parades, yeah, all the little kids, and in the back is the grumpy old men and if I can get them to wave to me, that makes me feel good,” says Ollie.

Over the course of 37 years, Ollie taught agriculture at both Seymour High School and what is now Fox Valley Technical College, where he started the agribusiness program and created the college’s Farm Tour.

In retirement, restoring old tractors became a hobby, and he’s never missed his hometown parade.

“Seymour has that Hamburger Day parade, and I’ve been in it with one of my old tractors every year, and it’s easier to be in it at Seymour. That explains why I wasn’t,” says Ollie with a chuckle.

And Saturday, June 12, a parade experience Ollie can’t wait for, returning to Appleton for the city’s 70th Flag Day Parade and serving as the escort for the Grand Marshal United States Flag.

“It’s really an honor, you know. It really is,” says Ollie.

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