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Northland Steps Up: Family gives 104-year-old veteran a colorful birthday surprise

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DULUTH, MN -- Living alone in his Duluth house, waving to friends and family from a window has been the extent of George Anderson's social life for the last month.

A lot of social distancing.

"He pretty much sits in the chair all day," said Anderson's great-grandson Finley Leveille.

Turning 104 this Saturday, Anderson has seen a lot in his life.

He survived the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, weathered the Great Depression, and fought in World War II.

Fortunately, recent years have been much more peaceful.

"Usually he has lots of activity going on with great-grandkids and neighbors," said family member Al Baumgarten-Leveille.

So to celebrate a birthday from a safe distance, Anderson's family decided to make him a colorful creation, with a little help.

"Art gives people something to smile about, even if its temporary," said chalk artist Melissa Gerads.

Melissa Gerads is an artist who is using chalk to help people stay positive.

She recently made a colorful chalk drawing outside St. Ann's in Duluth.

George Anderson's family saw it and got an idea.

"Decided it would be pretty great for him to have something to look at out here," said Al Baumgarten-Leveille.

So Monday afternoon, Gerads helped them get to work.

"Got 104 balloons going down his walkway for him to look at," said Gerads.

104 balloons, drawn in colorful chalk.

One for every year of life, drawn by the people who love Anderson most.

"Every birthday means something special to him," said Anderson's daughter Julie Baumgerten. "That he's made it another year. "So these little things mean a lot to us and him."

Anderson watched them color, smiling from his window.

"I think he's going to like it because he gets to look at something," said Finley Leveille.

Another happy memory made, in a life filled with adversity.

"Two huge pandemics, 102 years apart, and he's here for both of them," said Baumgarten-Leveille.

"He's amazing," said Baumgarten.

Unfortunately for that chalk, there is some rain in the forecast between now and his birthday, but the family is planning a parade for Saturday to put another big smile on Anderson's face.

Dan Wolfe

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