When World War II veteran Claudia Cantu turned 100 last month, she was hoping she would get 100 birthday cards. Instead, she got almost 800.
Cantu, of Corpus Christi, Texas, has received about 787 birthday cards from across the country, her daughter, Christine Magill, told Fox News.
"We have opened every single one and read almost every single one," Magill said. "We're not finished yet."
Magill said the idea to ask for 100 cards for Cantu's birthday on Oct. 30 came from one of the women in Cantu's poker group, who then contacted a local TV station. The Texas General Land Office saw the story and helped spread the word online.
According to Magill, cards came from as far away as Alaska and Canada. The youngest well-wishers were second-graders at a school in Corpus Christi.
Some local teachers even taught a lesson about Cantu and her war experiences, and had their students write cards to Cantu. Magill said she was thrilled at how her mother had inspired young girls.
"Some of these young ladies were like, ‘Wow, we really can do anything that we want to do and you’ve encouraged us,’" Magill said.
Cantu joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in 1942, when she was 21 years old. because both her brothers were fighting in the war and she wanted to help. (Courtesy of Christine Magill)
"It’s been amazing," she said of the heartwarming support. "For me, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m sure she’s tired."
Cantu joined the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) in 1942, when she was 21, her daughter said.
Magill said her mother was inspired to enlist because both her brothers had gone off to war and she missed them.
"She said, ‘I felt like I was doing something to help.'"
According to Cantu’s daughter, Cantu joined the Army Air Forces because both her brothers were fighting in the war and Cantu wanted to help. She left the Army Air Forces in January of 1946. (Courtesy of Christine Magill)
About a year into her service, the WAAC was renamed the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) and became a recognized part of the Army Air Forces. Cantu left the WAC after the war, in January 1946.
In 1947, she married her husband, who she had known since high school and who had also served in World War II. Together, they raised four children.
"To them, it was an honor to serve their country," Magill said.
Today, Cantu is still "very spry," her daughter said.
For her birthday, she had several celebrations, including a family party with three of her four children, her eight grandchildren and her five great-grandchildren. There was also a surprise luncheon with her poker group and dinner out with other visiting relatives.
An artist is working on a portrait of Cantu, and on her birthday local residents held a mini parade past her house, Magill said.
"It’s been a whirlwind," Magill said. "It was a lot of fun. ... She’s just been a little overwhelmed with everything."
Magill said her mother doesn’t think she deserves so much attention. "She says, ‘Well, there’s other veterans out there.'"
"I told her: ‘Look at the legacy that you have left with your children, which has grown into your grandchildren, which has now been passed on to your great grandchildren. That legacy will just continue to live on.’"
Magill said the family is "so very proud" of her mom "and what she has done."
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