(AFP) – Feb 19, 2010
OTTAWA — Canada's last veteran of World War I, John Babcock, who enlisted at age 15 but never fought on the frontlines, has died, Canadian authorities announced Friday.
He was 109 years old.
"The passing of Mr. Babcock marks the end of an era," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.
"His family mourns the passing of a great man. Canada mourns the passing of the generation that asserted our independence on the world stage and established our international reputation as an unwavering champion of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
Babcock was born in July 1900 and grew up on a farm near Kingston in Ontario.
As a teenager, he lied about his age to army recruiters in order to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force overseas, but did not see any combat during the conflict.
More than 600,000 Canadians fought in World War I, and more than 60,000 died between 1914 and 1918.
After the war, Babcock emigrated to the United States and became a US citizen in 1946.
With the encouragement of Prime Minister Harper, he reclaimed his Canadian citizenship in 2008, considering himself "a Canadian at heart," but continued to live in Spokane, Washington, where he died on Thursday.
In November 2006, Canadian lawmakers had voted unanimously to accord a state funeral for the last Canadian veteran of the war, but Babcock declined.
His remains will instead be cremated, and his ashes scattered in the Pacific northwest mountains, said reports.
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