Archie Fagan leads a rousing rendition of 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' during the Flemington-Raritan Baseball and Softball Opening Day event on April 22, 2017 in Flemington, N.J.

Archie Fagan leads a rousing rendition of 'Take Me Out To The Ball Game' during the Flemington-Raritan Baseball and Softball Opening Day event on April 22, 2017 in Flemington, N.J. (Nick Scalera for NJ Advance Media/TNS)

(Tribune News Service) — Archie Fagan sat in his wheelchair at Prudential Center on Nov. 9, a large “World War II Veteran” hat proudly positioned on his head, and listened as the sold out crowd roared for him.

It was Military Appreciation Night and Fagan, who’s seen it all in his 96 years on Earth, was watching the Devils face the Capitals with a smile stamped on his face and his family by his side. Public address announcer Adam Hamway listed the greatest hits of his bio – the U.S. Army service from 1944 to 1946, when he was honorably discharged; His experience in the Battle of the Bulge; And his help in liberating the Dachau concentration camp.

It was a touching moment for the Flemington native, who’s as spry as ever at 96, and he wants to build on it by teaching the generations that came after him. In a Zoom interview with NJ Advance Media last month, Fagan, the Devils’ “Hero of the Game” that night, opened up about the lessons he learned in World War II, what he believes younger generations should learn from it and gave the secret to a long and fulfilling life.

Q: Archie, how was the Devils game experience for you – Getting a standing ovation from the crowd, seeing yourself on the jumbotron?

A: Oh boy, I really enjoyed the game. They were very kind to me.

Q: Would you say you’re a Devils fan after the night you had? Have you always been a fan?

A: I must admit, I am not a hockey fan. I was brought up in Philadelphia as a lover of baseball. I remember the Philadelphia Athletics, the Philadelphia Phillies. I could get in for 25 cents, I could sit out in the bleachers. I was also always a football fan. I enjoy hockey! But it’s not my favorite. And I’m sorry I didn’t bring the Devils any luck! They lost 4-2.

Q: What does it mean to be able to share your WWII story to a younger generation?

A: I feel that I have some kind of a purpose. That perhaps God kept me alive this long so I can pass my story onto the younger generation so they may benefit from my experience.

Q: What do you think is the most important lesson you learned from that, that you’d like to share with this generation?

A: The most important thing is that freedom does not come free. You have to fight for liberty – liberty forever – you have to fight to stay alive. You have to do good in your life. I always believe that, in the end, good will overcome evil. I love my country. This gives me the chance to tell the younger generation they live in the most wonderful country in the world. I’m here to pass it onto them.

Q: What’s your most vivid memory from WWII that you could share?

A: It’s when I was a liberator of Dachau concentration camp in April of 1945. Ten miles outside of Dachau, which is right near Munich, the capital of Bavaria. We smelled something that was… It was the worst smell in my lifetime. When we got there, we saw what it was: It was a concentration camp that the Nazis had put up there in their determination to settle the Jewish question. Yes, they killed 6 million Jews – and I was there as a witness. Yes, I am a living witness of the Holocaust. Please God, save us from any of that again. Please. It’s evil. I saw the faces of evil. It was not good.

Q: With your worldly knowledge at 96, what do you think must be done in order to prevent humanity from ever letting something like that happen again?

A: That is a very good question. Intelligent people in this world today who are some bit of sanity and feel for their fellow man would do something to prevent this from ever happening again. But I’m afraid – yes, I try to be optimistic – but knowing that man has created evil, they have to show their evil impulses by their inevitable desire to control other men, then we’ll have face this Holocaust again. But I believe that if we are alert, if we love, if we cultivate the four values that God has given us – love, gratitude, forgiveness and also generosity – we will overcome evil. But it will take generations to overcome and realize that God put us here to serve one another, not to hate or destroy. We have to learn to love life and love our fellow man.

Q: Last one for you, what’s your secret to a long, fulfilling life?

A: You know, I told myself with a little bit of luck, God’s grace and my own determination to live kept me alive so long. A little bit of luck, yes, and God’s love and the desire to do good kept me alive for 96 years.

©2023 Advance Local Media LLC.


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