NINETY SIX — John Robert “Bob” Leopard, who was Gen. George Patton’s driver during World War II, turned 96 and received a plaque from Mayor Mike Rowe to commemorate the occasion.

“It’s always a great day when someone in Ninety Six turns 96,” Rowe said. “I’ve known him for many years.”

Leopard went to school with Rowe’s grandfather.

Leopard served in the Army when he was just 16 years old. His father brought him home after two years. He then rejoined the armed forces, this time as a Navy armed guard.

Because of his military experience, Leopard trained new soldiers. Once a torpedo struck his ship. He was the only man on this ship to grab his suitcase before it sank. Leopard threw the suitcase in a lifeboat and jumped in the water, but because he had grabbed all the pistols that other men threw down, he quickly started to sink.

Leopard was lost in the Mediterranean Sea and his family was told he was missing in action. He was found and returned to serve in Patton’s army. The suitcase was found and returned to him at the hospital.

“He has fought hard to get to 96,” Donna Ek, Leopard’s daughter, said.

Contact staff writer Megan Milligan at 864-943-5644 or follow her on Twitter @ij_megan.