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'Mountain Fest' celebrates WWII veteran's 100th birthday

Posted at 10:26 PM, Jul 06, 2024

NEAR BELT — In the video above, Tommy Lynch reports on a 100th birthday celebration for Hilton LaBow, a WWII veteran who was a member of the famed 10th Mountain Division. He was wounded in the Po Valley in Italy and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.



It is not easy reaching 100 years old, but Montana resident Hilton LaBow celebrated just that on Saturday. over 100 people came out to wish him a happy birthday in Belt.

Labow was born in 1924 on a farm in upstate New York during the Great Depression.

“Four or five milk cows, [we] used to raise pigs, and a beef. We had about 35 chickens,” LaBow remembers, “We didn’t have much money, but we eat good.”

At the end of 1942, he registered for the World War II draft, and initially was going to be a medic. Instead, he shifted focus, joining the 10th mountain division, a unique mountain ski troopers division. The initial purpose of the force was to prepare for a German attack into Northern New York if they were to conquer Europe. After intense training, LaBow was instead deployed to Naples, Italy during the Po Valley campaign, where he was shot.

“It didn’t hit the kneecap; I was lucky there,” LaBow said, “It went all the way up, crossed over, and the doc came out with a bullet that was about ‘that far’ from my spine.”

After the war, LaBow was married worked with a Talc mining company for 31 years, before remarrying and moving to Montana in the late 1970s.

“It was the best thing that ever happened for me,” LaBow said.

To this day, LaBow still works hard to maintain his land, instilling the values he learned to the next generation.

“Hard work pays off and family is the most important thing, really and truly,” said Jason Seibel, LaBow’s grandson, when referring to what his grandfather had taught him.

The party in Belt on Saturday brought people together to celebrate “The old dog” LaBow, with music, food, games, and memories.

“He’s never talked bad about anybody,” said Joseph LaBow, Hilton LaBow’s son, “If I could be half the person he is I’d be pretty fortunate, you know?”

Although he now walks with a cane, he’s still as sharp as ever, reaching a century of life with a keen sense of humor about it all.

“I had two good friends,” LaBow joked, “Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.”