TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Terre Haute, Ind. helped celebrate a German immigrant and veteran’s 101st birthday on Wednesday by giving him cards from those he’d met throughout his life.

Near the beginning of December, the museum asked the community to assist them in writing and collecting 101 birthday cards for Walter Sommers’ 101st birthday on Dec. 29. Museum representatives said this was an alternative to celebrating in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sommers was born in Frankfurt, Germany on Dec. 29, 1920. His family was Jewish and owned a chain of fine food stores.

By 1937, a news release said, it had become clear to Sommers that the family needed to leave Germany for their own safety. They located a cousin in the United States to sponsor their immigration and in January of 1939 were able to leave.

Within 48 hours of arriving in the US, the release said, Sommers found a job. In March of 1942, he was drafted into the United States Army and proudly served in the Pacific front, the release said.

Leah Simpson, Education Director at CANDLES Holocaust Museum & Education Center, said the museum surpassed its goal of collecting 101 cards for Sommers, instead gathering 135 cards.

Simpson said when she saw Sommers this week, he was so excited and thrilled to receive cards from people all around the nation. She said many cards included messages from people sharing their memories of how Walter impacted them.

It was after Sommers returned from the army that he came to Terre Haute, following a short stint in New York City. Sommers’ wife, Louise, had an uncle in Terre Haute and the two moved here, with Walter beginning a lifelong career at the Meis Department Store.

After retirement, he met Eva Kor and began volunteering with CANDLES. In 2010, the museum’s library was named after him and Louise.

Sommers turned 101 on Wednesday and Simpson said he was very pleased with the support he received through the cards collected.