It was standing room only at the North Bend City Council meeting Tuesday night, March 6th, as friends and family turned out in support of the 2018 Citizen of the Year: Burt Mann, fondly known to community members as “Walking Man.”
According to a city news release, Burt’s life was full of hardships and turmoil from a young age. His parents died when he was a child and for five years, he was forced to live on the streets and eat out of garbage cans. He eventually was taken in by a butcher who gave him a job and a place to sleep.
When he was 18, Burt and some friends were spending time together and heard the news that Pearl Harbor was attacked. They enlisted three days later. After training for three months in Louisiana, Burt got the call and headed overseas to the war.
He was wounded in action on the beaches of Normandy and sent to England for several operations. After his recovery, he was sent to the Philippines where he and his fellow soldiers were preparing to invade Japan, but those preparations were ended when the U.S. dropped the A-Bombs. Burt then went to Yokohama for a few months to do police work. When his time in Japan was up, he was able to come home to the U.S.
Back in Chicago, Burt got married, started a family and served as a police officer for 12 years. He eventually bought a restaurant and tavern and was able to put his two sons through college. He moved to North Bend when he was 69. He celebrated his 96th birthday on February 7th.
North Bend Communications Manager Jill Green said there wasn’t a dry eye in the room when Burt shared his life story during the council meeting.
In his speech Burt said, “For 84 years I had a grudge and was resentful. I became against the world and had hatred in my heart. But now I have love in my heart. I’m very grateful for the people that came here tonight that I know as friends. Words alone can’t express it. I’m blessed in my later years of life. It pays to get old!”
Per the news release, Burt loves to volunteer and has served at Mount Si Senior Center as their gardener, also helping the center in other ways. Almost every day since he moved to North Bend Burt can be seen walking city streets, talking to the people he meets. Despite his struggles, he always has a smile and an uplifting story to share.
“Burt is truly an inspiration to us all,” Mayor Hearing said. “I know people half his age that can’t do what he does.”
North Bend Citizen of the Year is awarded to an individual or business that has gone above and beyond to make the city a better place to live, through professional or volunteer efforts, or by an extraordinary contribution to the community.
** Photos courtesy of Mary Miller Photography **