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Pete DuPre, affectionately known as "Harmonica Pete," packed more into his 98 years than most could expect to experience in multiple lifetimes.
From serving as a medic in World War II to traveling the globe as an ambassador for the Greatest Generations Foundation, Mr. DuPre touched thousands with his soulful renditions of the national anthem and "America the Beautiful" on his harmonica.
He performed at funerals, schools, nursing homes, sporting events, memorials and parades and regularly reshared online. Among his most notable appearances was at the USS Arizona Memorial in 2015 to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was back again the following year for the 75th.
His performances had a unique ability to connect with audiences. But it was his attentive nature and the personal connections he forged that enabled him to impact so many.
Mr. DuPre, of Fairport, passed away peacefully Tuesday at the age of 98, his family announced on social media. And instantly, the tributes began pouring in from near and far. All recalled a jovial man who made people feel special. Mr. DuPre was everyone's friend.
"Pete was there for me at some really important turning points in my life," former WROC-TV (News 8) anchor Maureen McGuire offered Wednesday. "It was by chance. He was such a charming guy. He always took such a great interest in so many he met and that included me."
McGuire interviewed Mr. DuPre multiple times during her career. She said they bonded after realizing Mr. DuPre knew McGuire's parents.
"The one thing that always stayed with me was how kind he was and how decent he was," McQuire continued. "The thing about Pete was that his life story was so epic but he thought everyone had an epic story. He meant a lot. He was a dear friend. I am smiling just knowing that he is reunited with all his brothers, his friends, his dear wife. He lived an epic life. We don’t get Pete DuPres often in life. He was so amazing."
Mr. DuPre's wife of 70 years, Jane, died in 2014 at age 90.
The Greatest Generations Foundation, an organization dedicated to collecting, recording and sharing the experiences of veterans through educational initiatives shared on their Facebook page, "Pete, you are an example of honor, courage, and dedication to the people of America, ... We salute you, and may we all bear witness to your dedication and heroism."
His rendition of the "The Star Spangled Banner before a U.S. women's national team soccer match in New Jersey in 2019 went viral. A video posted to Twitter by ESPN garnered more than 3.6 million views.
A true hero, one of the most impressive people I had the privilege to spend time with and learn from. Thoughts and condolences to his family; hoping they can find solace and joy in celebrating a life well-lived. He was a part of our soccer family and we’ll miss him. https://t.co/5bH0WmtSkz
— Becky Sauerbrunn (@beckysauerbrunn) January 19, 2022
"We are saddened to hear that our dear friend and WWII veteran Pete DuPre passed away yesterday at the age of 98," the USWNT wrote in a statement posted to Twitter. "To know Pete was to love him, and his service, support and friendship meant the world. Our thoughts and hearts go out to his family."
The Nashville sessions
In 2016, he even traveled to Nashville to record an album of 40 pop hits, spanning the music of Glenn Miller, Billy Joel and so many others. Mr. DuPre regularly played at patriotic celebrations throughout the region and at airport receptions welcoming home veterans from Honor Flight trips to Washington, D.C.
— ESPN (@espn) May 26, 2019
“I think it’s neat. I’m part ham, I love to tell stories and I have no trouble saying yes," said Mr. DuPre as he sat near the veterans memorial eternal flame at Blue Cross Arena in 2017 before preparing to perform the national anthem at an Amerks game. “I’ve been very fortunate in my life to be in the right place at the right time and as a result of that I’ve built up some absolutely marvelous opportunities. I mean, what are the options for a 93-year-old guy, them kicking everyone off the USS Arizona just to have me play my harmonica?"
Not bad for a guy who couldn't read music and learned by listening.
Mr. DuPre, a native of Ogdensburg, St. Lawrence County, graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology and then embarked on a career with Bausch + Lomb,
Sgt. DuPre served as a medic in the 114th General Hospital Unit, according to a post from the Greatest Generations Foundation, and spent three years overseas. He tended to wounded service members during the European Campaign.
"Dad lived an inspiring, incredible life and left an indelible mark on everyone who knew him. He will be sorely missed," his daughter Mary Ann DuPre said in a Facebook post.
Calling hours for Mr. DuPre will be from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the Richard H Keenan Funeral Home, 7501 Pittsford Palmyra Rd., Perinton. Funeral services will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 26, at the Church of the Assumption, 20 East Ave.,Fairport.
Contact Will Cleveland at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @willcleveland13. Thanks to our subscribers for supporting quality local journalism. If you aren’t a subscriber, please consider a digital subscription.
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: 'Harmonica Pete' DuPre, World War II veteran, dies at 98