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Richard Peterson of Johnston is a World War II veteran and turns 100 years old this year. Of the more than quarter-million Iowans who served in World War II, 16,895 were still alive in 2015, according to the Census Bureau. Rodney White/The Register

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A Cedar Rapids family wants just one thing for their 92-year-old patriarch's birthday: well-wishes from strangers. 

After seeing a request for birthday cards for a 96-year-old World War II veteran achieve a great deal of success in California, Amy Stewart wanted to try to replicate the social media campaign for her father.

Like the recipient of the California birthday card campaign, Albert Bernard "Barney" Hanson is a veteran of World War II. He's lived alone since pancreatic cancer caused the death of his wife, Patricia, in 2017. 

Hanson was born on Cedar Rapids' west side on February 25th, 1926, and lived there all of his life, eventually buying a house just blocks away from his childhood home. 

During World War II, he served aboard the USS Mississippi as a machinist's mate from 1944-46. According to his daughter, Hanson participated in every battle in the Pacific theater, save Pearl Harbor, and witnessed the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay. 

According to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans, less than 500,000 veterans of the war are still alive. By 2022, they estimate the number will be well below 200,000. 

After returning from war, Hanson went on to work a variety of jobs before settling into a position as the maintenance supervisor at the historic Higley and Granby buildings in Cedar Rapids. 

In his wife's absence, Hanson has taken to purchasing used baseball gloves that he then donated to children in need. The gloves resonate with his past. After the war, he attended umpire school in Florida before attending spring training for the Odessa Oilers in Texas where he played baseball for a year. He was later inducted into the Cedar Rapids Softball Hall of Fame.

Stewart noted that her dad was a lifetime lover of antiques, constantly buying them and fixing them up.

"Mom was never too happy to see the station wagon pull into the driveway loaded down with his auction "treasures," she said. "Although, many of those furniture pieces are still in our family."

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Stewart describes the family home as now being filled to the brim with clocks that her father has collected and refurbished. The ticking of clocks — a reminder of the time that passes and the time that has already passed — resonates throughout the house constantly. 

"We were fortunate to grow up in a bustling household, filled with laughter and love," Stewart said. "Today the house is much quieter. Thus, the campaign to shower Dad with birthday cards."

She has plans to get him a map so he can pin the locations of the cards he receives to their various places of origin. 

The family doesn't expect to receive the same level as attention the California veteran, who received thousands of cards. "But if the cards can help fill his days and bring him joy for at least the next few weeks," Stewart said, "well, we will consider that a success!"

Birthday cards can be sent to the following address:

Barney Hanson

C/O Greg Stewart

PO Box 8606

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52408-8606

Follow the Register on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Aaron Calvin can be contacted at acalvin@dmreg.com or on Twitter @aaronpcalvin.

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