In 2020, he asked for 100 cards. This year, he’s asking for jabs for Canadians.
Pte. Fred Arsenault, a Second World War vet who fought in the Italian Campaign, ended up receiving 90,000 birthday cards for his 100th birthday on March 6 last year, just before the pandemic hit. His son had posted a photo of him requesting 100 cards on social media, which went viral.
Now, his wish for his upcoming 101st birthday is to help others by asking Pfizer to provide all Canadians with the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Hello, my name is Fred Arsenault. I am a WW2 veteran who fought to liberate Europe over 75 years ago. I’m about to turn 101 on March 6th, 2021 and would like to receive vaccinations for all Canadians. Please send a message to Pfizer. Thank you,” a sign held by Arsenault reads in a tweet Friday by Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.
“I’m so proud of my dad, still serving his country at 100 years old,” Ron Arsenault, Fred’s 64-year-old son, told the Toronto Sun.
“We’ve been reading in the media that Canada is in the backburner for the vaccine. If this can help anybody in Canada to get the vaccine, why not? He wants to do his part to save lives in 1940 and 1945 until now — worrying about everybody else.”
Ron said his father received the vaccine earlier this month at Sunnybrook.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, it was 100 days before I was able to see him when the lockdown came into effect,” he said.
“Our communication was through FaceTime, which kept him active, we were able to show him cards, reading him letters that had been sent. He received cards for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Some say, ‘We’re still thinking about you.’ It’s unreal. I believe dad has given the younger generation a chance to connect and learn about such a vital part of our history.”
The last time Ron was visited his dad was Jan. 9, before the hospital went into lockdown on Jan. 15.
Ron said his father was originally from Prince Edward Island, lived in Toronto, but later returned to P.E.I. for retirement. But circumstances changed and Fred came to live with Ron and his wife in Toronto up until 2019, when he moved to a nursing home in the Toronto area.
Arsenault served with the Cape Breton Highlanders from 1940 to 1945 and fought in the Italian Campaign and the Liberation of the Netherlands.
Since his birthday last year, the cards haven’t stopped arriving at Ron’s home. He estimates there are more than 100,000 now, with letters arriving from schools from all over the world.
“When Sunnybrook first approached us about doing another poster, I just got the look from my wife, ‘Are you kidding me?’ I told her, ‘It’s not for cards,” he laughed.
TheSun has reached out to Pfizer for comment.