An exuberant John Druce exclaimed “Did you ever see so many cars,” after a parade of vehicles exited his driveway May 15 to honor him on his 98th birthday. Druce is a Pennsylvania native who moved to Boothbay Harbor in 1953. When the coronavirus put an end to traditional socializing this spring, it also halted any plans the Druce family had for a big birthday party celebrating the World War II veteran. Instead of a large gathering, the family planned a large parade so locals could wish him Happy Birthday while he sat and watched outside his Boothbay Harbor home.
Well-wishers drove by Grandview Avenue Friday afternoon with their vehicles draped with flags, signs, balloons and streamers as an appreciative Druce watched. Neighbors John and Jane Griffin walked to the celebration holding a homemade cardboard sign saying “Happy Birthday.”
Jane Griffin has known Druce since she was a child. “I used to swim in his pool. We wanted to come and wish him a Happy Birthday, today,” she said. While a birthday parade isn’t normal, Druce appreciated the effort his family and friends made to make his birthday special. “They all like me. They are my buddies, and it was nice how they all came and said hello to me,” Druce said.
As a member of the nation’s “Greatest Generation,” Druce entered the Marines as a 21-year-old. In a November 2018 presentation to Rotary Club of Boothbay Harbor, Druce recounted being immediately sent to San Francisco, and six days later being assigned responsibility for 40 men aboard the SS Luxembourg Victory. Three weeks later, the freighter was missing. “We were at Guadalcanal during an air raid. I was asked the next morning where the ship was, but I didn’t know,” Druce said in the presentation. The lieutenant spent the rest of World War II looking for the missing freighter, but he didn’t know what happened until two decades later, when he learned in an article, the ship went through all the battles in the South Pacific.