A widower and war hero will spend ‘101 years’ opening more than 5,000 cards sent to him by kind-hearted strangers to celebrate his 101st birthday.
RAF veteran Jack Annall said it was an ‘absolutely incredible day’ which he will never forget and joked it would take him ‘101 years to read all of the cards’.
Gleeful Jack was greeted on Thursday morning with thousands of cards from all over the world which were carefully placed all over the floor and on the walls.
A brass band played ‘Happy Birthday’ to the centenary, and multiple cakes were donated by kind strangers.
Glasses of prosecco were offered up, but Jack enjoyed crisp pear cider – his favourite drink.
A tearful Jack said he couldn’t believe the kindness which was shown to him by strangers from around the world.
Jack said: “Today has been absolutely incredible, the atmosphere has been amazing. I was so overwhelmed and touched that these people thought of me.
“It’s just so unbelievable, I don’t know how this has all been done.
“I’m just over the moon.
“I just to thank everyone across the world and the country for making the day so special.
“It will take me 101 years to read all of the cards.”
Jack was not be able to get a visit from his daughter Mary for his big day as she lives in Australia and cannot travel due to the pandemic.
To avoid him feeling lonely, care home manager Vicky Gudgin, 32, appealed for cards to be sent to Jack at the home in Halifax, West Yorks.
Lift his spirits
Vicky wanted to cheer him up after she noticed he appeared down and appealed on social media for birthday cards to be sent in.
And she was stunned with the response from well-wishers touched by his story.
Vicky said: “He doesn’t have much family as his daughter lives abroad.
“I knew he was feeling a little bit down about not being able to see his daughter and I thought, what can we do to lift his spirits?
“I thought, let’s get the community involved and the extent it has is incredible.”
She initially asked other care homes in the area to send cards, but when the appeal was shared on social media, hundreds arrived from around the world.
The veteran, who served in the RAF, will be treated to a visit from the air force, the local mayor and a brass band concert on his birthday on Thursday, August 19.
Vicky added: “Jack is a wonderful person and we really want to make the day special for him.
“Knowing Jack, he wouldn’t want a big party, I just thought it would be nice to get a few cards for him.
“Initially, I wanted to get 101 cards, but we’ve already had 700 delivered already.
“We’ve got 200 on the way from ex-servicemen and another 100 from a local group. We’re well on course to get more than 1,000.”
Staff have set aside a lounge room in the home to accommodate all the cards and gifts.
Vicky added: “We’ve had businesses and people offering to send presents and arrange entertainment. We’ve had singers offer to come and perform.
“But Jack likes to be low-key so we’ve tried to keep it that way as best we can.
“He’ll have a visit from an RAF representative, the mayor is coming to see him and we have a brass band playing for him because he loves brass bands.
“We’re keeping the cards a surprise for him though.”
Jack was born in Carlisle, Cumbria, but moved to Bradford, West Yorks., where he lived with his late wife May.
He served as a joiner in the RAF for more than four years during the second world war as part of Number 617 Squadron and worked on Mosquito planes.
Their daughter, Mary, now lives in Sydney and has not been to the UK for more than three years in part due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He has video calls with his daughter twice a week and his niece also visits once a week, but he has no grandchildren.
Jack, who has resided in the Sandholme Fold care home since 2016, said good food was the secret to living so long.
Staff say he enjoys painting, classical music, brass bands and speaking with his family.
Mary, who plans to give her dad a special call on his birthday, said: “Dad is an amazing man who has always supported those close to him.”