Cliff “Kip” Sierp wanted everyone to know that just because he’s a year older, it doesn’t mean he’s lost any of his spunk.
Wearing a T-shirt declaring “Danger 100-year-old” and his treasured World War II veteran cap, Sierp sat under a tent outside his Seymour home Thursday afternoon serving as the guest of honor for a very special birthday parade.
Sitting next to him was his wife of 72 years, Kathryn. The couple are residents of Lutheran Community Home’s independent living villas. Their yard was decorated with signs reading “Honk! Kip is 100!!” There were even balloons in the shape of the number 100.
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A good, steady rain and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions didn’t stop the community from turning out for Sierp’s century milestone and to wish him a happy birthday.
Around 70 vehicles lined up in the parking lot at Zion Lutheran Church and slowly made their way past with people waving and shouting out their windows, some holding homemade signs.
The Sierps smiled and waved back.
The procession was led by a Seymour firetruck and police car, and the Radio 96.3 Cool Bus drove by playing the official U.S. Navy song. Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1925 in Seymour also participated, saluting Sierp with reveille.
Clergy from Immanuel Lutheran Church stopped by to sing “Happy Birthday” and provide a blessing and prayer.
Although he has participated in the Seymour V-J Day Parade in the past, he has never had his very own parade.
He was surprised by how many people came out in the rain.
“It meant a lot,” he said.
Sierp was among the brave soldiers who first landed on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion June 6, 1944.
He was discharged from the Navy as a gunner’s mate second class a year later after serving three years in the Pacific, European and American theaters of war. He received the Good Conduct and Victory medals and also earned two Bronze Stars.
Before joining the Navy, he had been drafted by the U.S. Army.
Sierp’s nieces, Sue Meier, Brenda Tracy and Kathy Rebber, and his daughter, Denise Sierp, had been planning on throwing him a big birthday party but had to change plans because of social distancing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Brenda came up with the idea to do a parade instead,” Meier said. “She saw where it was dome somewhere else, so she thought maybe we could do it, too.”
Sue was in charge of spreading the word and getting people to come. She contacted city hall and organized for Mayor Matt Nicholson to deliver a proclamation declaring it Cliff Sierp Day.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” Meier said of the turnout. “He was overcome with emotion every time he talked about it.”