They survived World War II, but a veterans' club has had its final meeting as they succumb to an enemy no man can defeat – time.
The Kilroy Last Man Standing Club in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, has met every Pearl Harbor anniversary for the past 60 years, and was created with the intention that the club would close down when the last two members were remaining.
It started out with 53 World War II survivors in 1954, but their numbers have dwindled to just seven surviving members, of which only five were able to attend what would be their last meeting Monday, Bob Shaw in the Pioneer Press reports.
A ceremonial bottle of wine, bought in 1954, was brought along to every meeting, and on Monday it was finally opened as the final veterans voted to shut down the club, the paper says.
"We don't know who will be around next year," Kelly Brookman, 87, told the Pioneer Press. "Better to end on a high note than a low note."
Every meeting would start off by the reading of a list and lighting of a candle for each member who had passed, and ended with a solemn salute.
Members included those who had stormed the beaches of Normandy during D-Day in 1944, though meetings would not just focus on the war, but also discussions of the old days and the various ailments that come with aging, according to the Lillie News.
The ravages of time meant that many members had been attending meetings with caregivers, wheelchairs and walkers, prompting the decision that Monday's meeting would be their last.
"We never thought about getting old and shaky," Omaha Beach veteran George Siegfried told MPR. "After 75, you don’t care about anything, just getting up in the morning."
As for the wine, a bottle of Meier's Isle of St. George Sauterne, it was pronounced "not too bad," as they raised one final glass to toast their fallen comrades.
Who was Kilroy?
Kilroy was a popular character created by American soldiers whose cartoon face would be graffitied by GIs – often with the slogan "Kilroy Was Here" – as they fought across the world, particularly during World War II and the Korean War. (See an example below, courtesy of Flickr user David.)
According to Kilroywashere.org, Kilroy was the "super GI" who was always the first one to get there and the last one to leave, someone who can always be depended on.
MentalFloss reports that Kilroy was derived from a similar cartoon character created by British troops called Mr. Chad, who was used to comment on shortages and rations during the war, and whose slogan was "Wot? No tea?"
The website claims that Joseph Stalin once asked who Kilroy was after finding a cartoon scrawled in a VIP bathroom he used while attending the Potsdam Conference with President Harry Truman and Winston Churchill in 1945.