Fitchburg veteran turns 100
WORCESTER — Army veteran and retired dentist Dr. Romeo LeBlanc celebrates his 100th birthday on Tuesday, June 7, reflecting on a series of highlights.
Between his upbringing in Fitchburg, his stint in the U.S. military, and his dental practice later in life, LeBlanc, according to his family, lived to be 100 years old. But, resident of the Lutheran Rehabilitation and Skilled Care Center in Worcester, Romeo LeBlanc humbly called his century on Earth “nothing special”.
” I am famous ? What did I do?” LeBlanc laughed. “I’ll never understand why anyone would want to read about my poor old self.”
“He was always humble, from the very beginning,” said Diane LeBlanc. “But it’s so inspiring to see him reach this milestone.”
Roméo Leblanc and his daughters, Diane and Donna LeBlanc, celebrated his centenary in style on Monday, June 6. They instead simply told stories from the life of their father, whom they called “one of the greats”.
Born June 7, 1922, Roméo LeBlanc spent the first two years of his life in Canada, before his family moved to the Cleghorn neighborhood of Fitchburg. The first of 14 children, he often deprived himself of it for them as he grew up in the city.
He “always tried to do what was best for his siblings,” Diane LeBlanc said. “He loved them so much – growing up he tried to lead by example and always put them before himself.”
A graduate of Fitchburg High School, Romeo LeBlanc was immediately enlisted in the US Army at the age of 18. From 1939 to 1943, he served in the 26th Infantry Division, also known as the “Yankee” Division, a Massachusetts formation. National Guard. Later, from 1943 to 1945, he was assigned to the 7th Armored Division and took part in numerous actions on the Western Front.
During his time with the 7th Armored, LeBlanc served under the late General George Patton and later participated in the month-long Battle of the Bulge under the command of General Courtney Hodges.
As he talked about the war and his military service, LeBlanc began to cry.
“It brings back so many memories,” he said.
After the war, LeBlanc returned to Fitchburg before continuing his education, first at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and later at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. After graduating, LeBlanc opened his own private practice in Cleghorn, both to support his family – his late wife Jennie LeBlanc, daughter Diane LeBlanc, son Kenny LeBlanc and (later) daughter Donna LeBlanc – and giving back to the neighborhood he grew up in.
“He always loved school,” Donna LeBlanc said. “And dentistry was a passion, but also a way for him to give back to the community.”
The military and dentistry, noble as they were, weren’t LeBlanc’s only pursuits in life. Not only did he excel as an athlete, but later in life he also found a love for singing and dancing.
While at FHS, LeBlanc enjoyed football very much. On his return from the war, he also shines as a golfer and skier. According to Donna LeBlanc, Roméo LeBlanc even qualified for the Senior Olympics as a skier, but had to withdraw due to injury.
“He was always a man without limits,” said Diane LeBlanc. “If he wanted to do something, he did it – I know for a fact he kept dancing until he was 94.”
Later, as they wrapped up their celebration, the sisters discussed the key to Romeo LeBlanc’s longevity. Both cited her “carefree and charismatic” attitude as a major element.
“For me, that’s what kept him going – the stress, he never let it get to him,” Donna LeBlanc said.
But, before being taken away, Roméo LeBlanc gave his own opinion by humbling himself once again by saying that the key to life is to live it as best you can, like everyone else.
“Sometimes I think I just got lucky,” he said. “My life has been hard, like everyone else. I just tried to live life the right way.
“So what kept me going? Nothing special — I don’t always do what I want or like, but what I have to do. I do my best and I go day by day. After a pause, he laughed and said “I think, another 100 years and I’ll have it done.”