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Strangers shower LI man with cards, gifts on 95th birthday

Jim Bliss is shown in his South Setauket

Jim Bliss is shown in his South Setauket assisted-living home on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, with some of the many birthday cards he received for his 95th birthday, which he will celebrate on Thursday. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

About two weeks ago, Ann Bliss put out a call to Facebook, asking her friends and family to send cards to her father, Jim Bliss, who turns 95 Thursday.

She expected a few cards from relatives, who are scattered across the country. She did not expect her father to receive about 60 messages and gifts, some from people they had never even met.

Ann Bliss had learned from a friend that her father, a World War II veteran and former Long Island University professor, recently said “he had nothing left to offer” in this late stage of his life.

“It really hit me that he would say something like that,” said Ann Bliss, 52, of Yaphank.

Jim Bliss, who was born in Queens in 1921 and received degrees from Fordham University and New York Law School, suffered a minor stroke in February 2015. In January, his longtime girlfriend died, and Blisslater moved from his home in Garden City to an assisted-living facility in South Setauket.

“Even though I come and visit him pretty often, it can still be really isolating, especially because he has a very difficult time hearing,” his daughter said. “So for him, the best way of dealing with people is reading his letters at his leisure.”

Bliss’ original Facebook post detailed her father’s involvement in World War II, where he served in Africa and the Middle East, his role to improve employment opportunities for African Americans during the civil rights movement and his turn as a business professor at Long Island University.

The first card arrived about a week and a half ago from a man in New Mexico who has never met the Bliss family. Dozens of others followed.

“It must have struck a chord with people,” Ann Bliss said.

Some cards from distant relatives contained long messages relating anecdotes about time spent with Bliss, while others were from complete strangers.

“It’s people like you who make the world a better place to live in. I am 25 years old and I hope that when I turn 95 I have as many wonderful accomplishments as you do to look back on,” wrote one woman, who said she saw Ann’s post on Facebook.

Last week, the World War II veteran even received a box full of sweets as well as a couple of old Army patches from an Army drill sergeant.

Bliss will be having dinner with his daughter and other family members at Atria South Setauket on his birthday Thursday. Bliss said he’s surprised and grateful for all the attention he’s received over the past couple weeks.

“It’s awesome isn’t it? That I should be remembered by so many people,” he said.


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