Turning 100 is already special, but for Briton Joe Cattini that milestone got an extra twist. One of the last remaining liberators of Eindhoven was surprised on his birthday with two awards by a delegation from the city he liberated. “That’s too much honor.”
Not only has Cattini been named an honorary citizen of the city, he is also the winner of the very first Local Hero Award.
In the company of friends and family, Cattini celebrated his 100th birthday in his homeland last Tuesday. It was actually the intention that the Briton would be at a concert specially organized for him in Eindhoven a few days earlier, but he had to miss out due to his fragile health.
So an Eindhoven delegation traveled to England to put him in the spotlight, and not without reason. In September 1944, as a young boy, Cattini fought to liberate Eindhoven from the Nazis. That this was not devoid of dangers, is once again apparent from the speech of mayor Jeroen Dijsselbloem.
“Joe Cattini was on the front line time and time again. He was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. His friend next to him was fatally injured by shrapnel, but Joe was not injured.”
The war continued
Cattini is not only praised for his struggle on the battlefield, but also for his efforts after the war. For the British, the Second World War did not end after the collapse of the Third Reich in May 1945.
Cattini has regularly visited Eindhoven in recent years. He attended the traditional torch parade last September and visited schools to pass on the story of the war to new generations. “That was always one of the conditions when he came to the Netherlands,” explains the chairman of the 18 September Foundation, Peter Kemp. “He insisted on going to schools to tell his story.”
Cattini has been rewarded with two awards for his participation in the bloody battle for the Eindhoven region and his unbridled commitment to make young people understand the value of freedom. He has been granted honorary citizenship of the city. This brings the Englishman to an illustrious list that includes football coach Guus Hiddink, swimmer Pieter van den Hoogenband and former mayors Rein Welschen and Rob van Gijzel.
The Local Hero Award was also presented to Cattini. He is the namesake and face of that prize. From now on, every two years, the award will be given to a young person who has shown exceptional drive and determination for a cause, belief or individual, despite setbacks.
For Eindhoven News: Lila Mehrez