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A Cubs fan, the "flower lady," husbands, wives, and more are part of the more than 1,400 Iowans lost COVID-19 as of early October 2020. Des Moines Register

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Carroll White deserved a better 100th birthday celebration.

He served in World War II, landing with the first wave of troops in Hiroshima after the atomic bomb showed us an atom’s true might. A medic, he helped set up M*A*S*H-like hospital units. He saved countless lives with a selflessness he first learned on a farm in Bonaparte, Iowa.

“Oh gosh, he was such a great, patient man,” daughter Lynne Blackwell recalled. “There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for people. He was the greatest father anybody could have, and I’m sincere when I say that.”

Yes, he deserved a party — a blowout bash, if you will. But when he was about to complete his 100th trip around the sun, his family gathered outside a closed glass window at the care center where Carroll was recovering from a stroke.

The man who survived the A-bomb’s wrath wouldn’t survive the virus that kept his family from hugging and kissing the newly minted centenarian. He died of COVID-19 on June 4 at the Ottumwa Regional Health Center.

“We had a big party planned,” Lynne said. “I’ve still got $1,000 worth of decorations and invitations.”

They’ve become keepsakes now, another memory of a father who worked in auto parts for most of his career and was deeply involved in the Ottumwa community, which he called home since 1948, after he returned from the Pacific.

More: The Iowans we've lost to COVID-19

Carroll was a Cub Scouts leader for his son, Steven, and his grandsons. He also was active in the Masonic Lodge, the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars branches well into old age. He loved hunting and fishing and was a master carpenter and woodworker.

But, most of all, he was known as the man to call if you needed a hand, a reputation that Steven highlighted while eulogizing his father.

“One icy winter day when Dad was in his 90s, he got a knock on the door,” Steven read at the funeral. “It was a young lady saying her car would not start, and would Dad get his car out of the garage to help her with a jump-start?” 

“Maybe she didn’t realize that Dad was older, and that it was risky and difficult for him to get his car out and jump hers. After all, he really didn’t look his age. Of course, he agreed to help her.”

When Lynne happened on the scene, she asked the woman what got into her, requesting a man in his 90s jump her car — when he could slip on ice, no less.

I’m new to town, she said, and I was told you could ask Mr. White for anything.

“She was told right,” Steven said. “A reputation is something that once earned, sticks.”

Iowa Mourns is a series of remembrances about Iowans who lost their lives to COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. If you've lost a loved one to COVID-19 in Iowa, let us know by filling out this form or emailing Iowa Columnist Courtney Crowder at ccrowder@dmreg.com.

Iowa State columnist RandyPeterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of six decades. Reach him at rpeterson@dmreg.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete.

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