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Second World War veteran Herb Peppard has died

Second World War veteran and lifelong Truro resident Herb Peppard during the opening of the Herb Peppard Park in June, 2016.
Second World War veteran and lifelong Truro resident Herb Peppard during the opening of the Herb Peppard Park in June, 2016. - FILE

TRURO, N.S. – Truro’s arguably most famous war veteran has died.

Herb Peppard, a member of the famed Devil’s Brigade from the Second World War, died Wednesday morning, June 12, at the Veteran’s Hospital in Halifax.

Peppard, who was born July 7, 1920, was shy of his 99th birthday.

“We were with him when he passed and he passed peacefully and beautifully and surrounded by his family,” said daughter Rosalee Peppard-Lockyer, who was there with her sister Lark Hewer and their brother Herb Jr.

She said a special community celebration of life will be planned for her father in the coming weeks.

“Dad had so many friends,” Peppard-Lockyer said, adding that while many people knew of his greater deeds, the extent of his hometown community mindedness was not as widespread.

“Folks don’t know what he spearheaded,” she said. “Dad was always a great neighbour. He was a great encourager and always looking for the positive and giving positive to people.”

Peppard was born in the house where he grew up in on Alice Street and where he raised his own family and continued to reside until being transferred to the Veterans’ Hospital following an injury.

He led an extremely active life and in addition to being a decorated war veteran, was also an author, poet, singer, newspaper columnist, public speaker and former bodybuilder, for which he inducted into the Colchester Sports Hall of Fame as a provincial pioneer and champion of the sport.

In June 2016 he was honoured with a ceremony to officially open a public park in his name across the street from his boyhood home on the site of the former Alice Street Elementary school.

Longtime friend and Ward 3 Truro Councillor Cathy Hinton, said despite the many honours that Peppard received throughout his lifetime, having his name attached to the park was the most special.

“He loved to see the children playing in the park,” Hinton said. “This is Herb’s legacy, this park.”

Peppard signed on for service in the Second World War in December 12, 1940 at age 20 with the Canadian Artillery, and after that, the First Canadian Parachute Battalion. He later was recruited to the First Special Service Force (FSSF), which became known as the Devil’s Brigade, an elite unit jointly comprised of Canadian and American Soldiers, and which served as the precursor to modern-day special forces units. To their German enemies, the brigade members became fearfully known as the Black Devils because of their stealth under darkness.

Following the disbandment of the FSSF in November 1944, Peppard rejoined his original parachute battalion.

In 1944, he was awarded one of America’s highest military honours, the Silver Star and in 2015 he travelled to Washington, where along with 41 other surviving members of the Black Devils, was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest civilian medal that can be awarded by the United States for his service with the Devil's Brigade.

He served until September 6, 1945 and on June 10, 1946, he married his wife Greta and for a number of years worked on the railroad until later establishing a successful electrical construction business. Peppard would go on to upgrade his education to a B.A. and B.Ed and taught the trade until he retired.

Peppard-Lockyer said her father was most recently recognized for his military service on June 11 when he was awarded the title of Field Knight by the Order of St. George.

In 1994 he wrote a humourous and heartwarming book called The LightHearted Soldier: A Canadian's Exploits with the Black Devils in WWII.

“He certainly went out the way he lived,” said Wilson MacDonald, a close friend, fellow member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 26 in Truro and commander of the Nova Scotia, Nunavut Command.

“He was quite a guy,” Wilson said. “In my personal opinion, we have lost a great man.”

Ron Trowsdale, chairman of the Truro legion’s Grave Decorating Committee agreed.

“Herb was a very special man and a very active man,” he said. “He always wore his uniform (to special events) and was proud it still fit him. He was one of kind in many ways."

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