A celebration was held at High Grindon House where he lives. Family, residents, friends and special guests gathered to help Ernie celebrate this amazing milestone.
Ernie, the son of shipyard plater Ernest and his wife Alice, was born in Trimdon Street in 1916. He grew up in Millfield and Pallion before he and his wife, Florence settled in Pennywell where they raised their own family of 5. He is a WWII veteran who served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers from 1940 to 1946, landing on Gold Beach in Normandy as part of the D-Day invasion in 1944.
More than 1,000 British men lost their lives on the beach that day, but Ernie survived. He was awarded France’s highest honour for his role in helping liberate the country, receiving the Chevalier Medal at a ceremony in Durham Cathedral last year.
Among the people helping him celebrate were the Mayor of Sunderland – Councillor Barry Curran, Gentoo’s Acting Chief Executive, John Craggs, Chair of the Sunderland Armed Forces Network, Graham Hall and SAFC Museum’s Director, Michael Ganley.
Ernie, a devoted Sunderland SAFC fan was also surprised by Bobby Kerr, Richie Pitt, and Micky Horswill some of Sunderland’s 1973 FA Cup Final squad who joined the celebrations.
Gentoo welcomed guests and he was presented with a birthday cake in the shape of his Chevalier Medal by Carla Cuthbertson and Dave Caslaw from Gentoo’s Veterans Group. Carla’s charity, ‘Brothers in Arms’ (set up in memory of her son Nathan who was killed in Afghanistan in 2008) kindly donated a light buffet for guests to enjoy.
The SAFC Museum also brought to life a history of the club over Ernie’s lifetime, presenting him with a SAFC replica shirt signed by the current team, with his name and his age printed on the back. The day came to an end with everyone singing Happy Birthday. All guests also had the opportunity to view the SAFC Museum Display.
Michael Ganley, Director, SAFC Museum said: “It’s a great honour to have been invited to help Ernie celebrate. Ernie is a lifelong Sunderland fan and it’s been a privilege to take him on a trip down memory lane with artefacts and stories from the last 100 years. The SAFC Museum is committed to bringing the team’s history to life to people of all ages and we look forward to working alongside organisations such as Gentoo in the future.”
John Craggs, Acting Chief Executive, Gentoo said: “Ernie has been a Gentoo customer since 1946 and we are delighted to be part of his 100th birthday celebrations. As well as take part in Gentoo social events at High Grindon House he is also a friend of Gentoo’s Armed Forces Veterans Group. He was a guest of honour at our Remembrance Service, reading the exhortation and sharing his stories with staff. On behalf of Gentoo and all of his friends at the veterans group, we would like to wish Ernie a very happy birthday.”