World War II veteran Leland Svarverud of Roseburg celebrates his 100th birthday Friday.

Svarverud was born in California on Feb. 5, 1921, and raised in Eugene, where his parents moved in 1926. After graduating from high school, he moved to Los Angeles, where he took a job in Los Angeles at Lockheed Aircraft Company (now known as Lockheed Martin).

Employees like Svarverud had useful skills the new U.S. Army Air Forces was looking for during the war, and Svarverud was drafted to serve.

After basic training, Svarverud was sent overseas. He served in Casablanca, Morocco; Sicily and Reading, England.

His specialty was repairing glider planes.

“Gliders could be a problem because they blow around in the wind and I had to keep them repaired,” he said.

During his service at Reading, he worked at an assembly base on gliders that were used during the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

The Allies’ gliders were shipped over in boxes and the glider mechanics had to assemble them and get them ready to go.

Svarverud is humble about the role he played in America’s success during the war.

“It was just a job like anything else. You go on and do what you gotta do,” he said.

The Nazis surrendered on May 7, 1945.

After that, Svarverud was sent to France and then to Northern Germany.

“It’s funny but we didn’t really have a lot to do in Germany,” he said.

His main job there was to help dismantle German military equipment.

“They had stockpiled lots of enemy things that we wouldn’t want them to have in a war, tanks and stuff. So part of our time was spent in picking that stuff up and getting it disassembled so it wasn’t usable by the Germans any more,” he said.

Svarverud returned to the United States and was discharged in 1946.

He took advantage of the G.I. Bill to attend Willamette University, where he studied property appraisal.

He worked as a property appraiser and assessor in Marion County and then in Eastern Oregon before becoming Douglas County assessor, a position in which he served for 14 years during the 1960s and 1970s.

His first wife was Peggy Svarverud, a war bride from England. They divorced in 1960 and he married Nelda Norris in 1962 and moved to the Norris family’s ranch west of Roseburg, where he has lived ever since.

The ranch used to offer u-pick strawberries in the summer, but today it isn’t actively farmed and a neighbor runs his cattle on the land.

Svarverud said he isn’t sure what led to him living a long and healthy life.

“I don’t know what the secret is, you just go along and do it I guess,” he said.

One reason might be that he remained active, continuing to farm until Nelda died about 10 years ago.

The two were active at the Riversdale Grange and enjoyed touring around in their motor home, including visits to Canada and Mexico and many trips to the Southwest Oregon coast.

These days he’s wheelchair bound. He broke his hip a few years ago when he was getting wood out of the woodshed.

“I had a piece of wood roll on it in the woodshed here at the house and it hurt it real bad. It kind of has to be favored now,” he said.

Every year, Svarverud attends the Veterans Day Parade. Even this year, with a pandemic converting the event to a drive-thru parade, Svarverud was there wearing the Eisenhower jacket he was discharged in. He wears the jacket every year at the parade.

He said he encourages the younger generation to support veterans organizations and keep them going.

The family planned to celebrate Svarverud’s birthday with lunch at Kowloon Restaurant in Roseburg.

Reporter Carisa Cegavske can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213.

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Senior Reporter

Carisa Cegavske is the senior reporter for The News-Review. She can be reached at ccegavske@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4213. Follow her on Twitter @carisa_cegavske

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