NARRAGANSETT–Narragansett resident and avid volunteer John E. O’Hara was recently presented the Department of Rhode Island Veterans of Foreign Wars Patriotic Award for his involvement with countless councils and community organizations.
As a 92-year-old World War II veteran and the legislative officer of the VFW, the Disabled American Veterans, Volunteer Chairman of AARP, the Silver Haired Legislature and the Senior Action Council, O’Hara has a full schedule and plans on keeping it that way.
O’Hara previously worked with the United States Postal Service and as a portrait photographer. He is the proud father of six sons and 21 grandchildren. He moved to South County in 2003. After his wife of 55 years passed away in 2004, he said he was devastated and found volunteering as a way to dedicate his free time to make a difference in the community.
“I love to volunteer and I want to keep busy, if I don’t keep busy I go crazy,” said O’Hara. “I do all of this as a dedication to my wife because I married the greatest girl in the world, Shirley Elizabeth Johnson.”
In 2010, O’Hara submitted a binder of his personal World War II poems, letters, and pictures for the Naval Historical Collection at the Naval War College Library in Newport. In this binder, O’Hara submitted his own personal thoughts and experiences in the war. He still vividly remembers many of his war stories, including the time he survived a submarine attack during the first invasion of Africa.
“I have seen a lot of things in my time. I fought in Africa, the Arctic and all of the Pacific,” said O’Hara. “I have been in 13 major engagements and have 13 battle scars to prove it.”
In 2006, O’Hara was presented the AARP Rhode Island Volunteer of the Year Award. One of the main causes O’Hara focuses on in his volunteering is senior rights. The Silver Haired Legislature meets once a month in the State House and reviews bills dealing with senior citizens. He also travels around Rhode Island giving speeches on senior and veteran rights.
At his visits to senior centers and nursing homes, O’Hara educates others on Social Security and Medicare. He said that the senior citizens deserve to know what is happening around them, and this is why he spends time volunteering with AARP.
When O’Hara received the Patriotic Award in June, he was both surprised and honored that the VFW would think of him for this award. In the future, O’Hara plans on continuing his active lifestyle and making a difference.
“It was a complete surprise, and it is an award very few people get it. And they said I got it for all of the hard work I do with volunteering for veterans,” said O’Hara. “I dedicate my life to volunteering for my wife and I want to stay active. I love helping others. This is what I love to do.”