Abington veteran helped storm the beaches on D-Day

Mikaela Slaney

On Oct. 24, Abington resident and D-Day survivor William Ulwick turned 90.

About 85 friends and family members attended a party in his honor the following day at his gym, Advanced Cardio & Strength.

Ulwick exercises there nearly every morning, and has become friends with staff, including Sue Whalen, who carved a pumpkin in his honor.

“They had a pumpkin on the entry way, at the gym on the counter,” Ulwick said. “And when you look at the face carving it was a face carving of me. (Whalen’s) very talented—she made a cutout and she brought it to my house for Halloween and when parents came with their kids they said ‘hey that’s you!”

Ulwick’s son Doug used his resources as an architect to blow up poster-size photos of his father’s life, which were on display during the birthday party.

“We had him at 10 years old, we had him on his wedding, it was fun to look at his life,” Doug said.

There was also swing music from the 1940s playing over the PA, although most people were too busy chatting and laughing to notice, Doug added.

When Ulwick was 24, he was present at the assault on the beaches in Normandy, France on D-Day, June 6, 1944. That day, Americans and allied forces battled the Germans and began the liberation of France.

It was one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

In 2008, Ulwick received a decree signed by France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and he’s to be honored in an award ceremony at the Langham Hotel in Boston.

Ulwick was also given the title of “chevalier,” which translates to “knight,” by France’s Legion of Honor.

Previously, he has also been awarded a French combat assault medal (in 1994), a French combat badge (in 2004) and a Purple Heart for injuries he sustained on D-Day. He was also injured later while present during several other battles.

But Ulwick said his injuries prepared him for being optimistic later in life.

Ulwick was diagnosed with leukemia four years ago and is being treated at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston He said he feels great.

“I just turned 90 and I feel like I’m 40,” he said. “In fact the hospital told me some good news—they said my blood count went up. They take care of me at Tufts and they’re doing a great job. I have not been sick at any time. I'm an enigma at Tufts, they can’t figure me out.

“I think with what I had gone through, I have a very good attitude. The doctors and nurses have said the same thing. I was very fortunate. I have five battle scars. I think I'm pretty lucky to have survived that. And I think I'm very lucky to be surviving what I have. I’m been very fortunate to reach 90. I’ve been told by doctors and nurses that it has a lot to do with survival. And I’ve been told I'm a good patient, but I have nothing to complain about, because I'm not sick and they’re taking care of me. What more can you ask for? I’ve never been one to say ‘why me.’ Why not me? One thing I don’t want to do is feel sorry for myself, so I stay active. There’s nothing to feel sorry about.”

Ulwick said he works out at Advanced Cardio & Strength nearly every day, aside from when he exercises at Tufts.

“I have a set routine, and I'm in pretty good shape,” he said. “(The gym’s) also very social, it’s a great bunch there and I’d recommend that place to all my friends.”

Ulwick said although Veterans Day is Wednesday, and the parade will be held then in Abington, he has not finalized his plans for that day.

He said he may participate in the parade, but he would need to ride in a vehicle, as his knees aren’t as solid as they used to be.

In the meantime, Ulwick said he has a lot of thank-you notes to complete after his birthday party.

In addition to Doug, Ulwick has two other sons, Bob and Russ, as well as four grandchildren and one great grandchild.

William and his late wife Marie Ulwick moved to Abington in 1953.

Abington Mariner