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Pete DuPre, WWII veteran known as 'Harmonica Pete,' has died at age 98

Pete DuPre, the Rochester native and WWII veteran, also known as 'Harmonica Pete'
The Greatest Generations Foundation
Pete DuPre, the Rochester native and WWII veteran also known as "Harmonica Pete."

A World War II veteran from Rochester — Pete DuPre, also known as "Harmonica Pete" — has died at the age of 98.

His daughter, Mary Ann DuPre, wrote on Facebook that her father “passed peacefully on Tuesday, January 18, 2022 … with his son Mike by his side."

Mary Ann DuPre said that her dad “lived an inspiring, incredible life and left an indelible mark on everyone who knew him. He will be sorely missed.”

DuPre was a U.S. Army medic who treated soldiers wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. He was known in more recent years for playing the national anthem at venues all over the world, ranging from packed sports stadiums to much smaller VFW halls and other spots.

Mary Ann DuPre said her dad loved to play his harmonica and the national anthem, partly out of his deep sense of patriotism, but also because he wanted to bring a little joy to those he met.

“Not only did he have an extraordinary life, but he lived it with overwhelming generosity, and I think all of those pretty much embodied who my dad was,” said DuPre.

In 2019, Pete DuPre talked to WXXI News about being able to play his harmonica all over the world.

“We’ve been able to travel and spread the word and the music, if you will, of the United States to the various places that we go,” DuPre said. And to be in that position at 96 years old, I value it very much.”

DuPre also played at Honor Flight gatherings, and he told WXXI’s"Connections with Evan Dawson" in 2017 that at some of those events, he met veterans who did not have a good experience when they returned home.

He said that when they heard the national anthem on his harmonica and were honored by other Honor Flight activities when they landed back home, some of them became emotional.

“You just go up and they’re crying and these are the tough old birds who said, ‘I don’t want to do any of that stuff.’ They remember how bad it was when they came back. And so all this is, is a transfer of a long-delayed ‘hooray, welcome home.’”

The Greatest Generations Foundation, which helped sponsor DuPre’s harmonica appearances, calls him “an example of honor, courage and dedication to the people of America.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.
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