Waiting for the new Stanislaus Veterans Center at Sylvan Avenue and Coffee Road in Modesto to open, holding on to a walker, was World War II Veteran Bob Berson and his wife Lola. The couple resides in Oakdale and attended the recent grand opening celebration. While waiting for the doors to open, they were approached by Duke Cooper who runs American Veterans First (AVF) in Riverbank.
Noticing the WWII cap that Berson was wearing, Cooper said he just had to engage in conversation. Finding out that Berson had trouble with his legs which prevented him from doing things like visiting a friend that lives down the street, Cooper knew that he had to help the local veteran get more mobility.
The Bersons followed Cooper to the facility in Riverbank, where they got acquainted and offered Berson a new set of legs or – as it turned out to be – a new set of wheels.
“I said ‘how about an electric scooter’ and both he and his wife started crying,” stated Cooper. “So he is so excited now because he can go down the street and visit his friend. That is why we do what we do right there.”
The AVF colleagues refurbished the scooter last week and delivered it to the couple in Oakdale on Thursday, May 11. They walked alongside Berson up and down the street making sure he understood how the electric scooter worked.
“You should have seen; he was giggling and cackling like a little kid,” added Cooper.
“It will lift him up psychologically because he cannot drive anymore,” stated wife Lola. “They (AVF) are wonderful. I was so overjoyed that we found them.”
As a WWII veteran, Berson began his career in the Navy and then did a few years in the Marine Corps where he spent time in the Pacific with the 4th Marine Division. He returned to the states when the war was over and decided to attend medical school. The family practice began in Tahoe but they did not want to raise the children there so they moved to Tulare where Berson worked for a doctor. Not really enjoying working for someone else, Berson moved to Tracy and met a surgeon that became a really good friend. The two moved to Livermore where the Bersons spent 30 years.
“Then Lola and I built a sailboat and we started sailing in the Northwest back and forth to Alaska,” added Berson. “We had a lot of adventures and a lot of fun. Then we got tired of the cold weather up there and moved back to Roseville.”
After spending some time in Roseville, they decided to move to Oakdale where their daughter currently lives.
“I have always loved Oakdale,” said Lola. “I used to own a ranch in Oakdale. Now that he has this (scooter) and he has found some men that are like minded this is just going to be wonderful.”
“I think it will give me a lot of mobility,” expressed Berson. “It is easy. It doesn’t take any skill. It is really nice what they did for me.”
AVF opened in August 2016 after the Rear End Shop donated the building to Cooper, who is a Marine Corps veteran. He wanted to create a place where veterans and first responders could have a place to socialize and have camaraderie. Since then Cooper and his fellow veterans have helped those in need in the surrounding communities with a coat and blanket drive, proper disposal of the American Flag, sending out care packages to service members overseas, raising money for veterans with a car show and much more.