He coined the phrase “every day is a bonus” after almost losing his life as a “human skeleton” while a prisoner of war in World War II.
Joe Demler, whose image of survival became world-known in Life Magazine, lived a life of seven-and-a-half decades of bonuses. He has passed away at 94 years old.
His phrase has become the philosophical mantra of the Honor Flight program honoring fellow World War II-era and other veterans.
Happy 94th birthday to #WWII Nazi POW Joe Demler, who weighed 70 lbs at liberation & was pictured in Life Magazine. Star of the documentary “Honor Flight: One Last Mission”. Joe’s mantra in captivity was “every day is a bonus”. #honorflight pic.twitter.com/YmkaGO5FF2— Stars and Stripes Honor Flight (@SSHonorFlight) December 7, 2019
The picture you see above, was taken by John Florea in 1945 at a Nazi camp in Limberg, Germany. Demler was 70 pounds at the time.
“You don’t know how many times I see those pictures in my mind,” he told Life in 1993. “I wanted to show how the Nazi bastards—what they did to our guys. It was terrible.”
Demler joined then-WTMJ talk show host Charlie Sykes and numerous others in launching the Stars and Stripes Honor Flight program – the most active of all Honor Flight groups across the country.
“When you have 80- and 90-year-old men crying as they tell you that this was one of the greatest days of their life, taking part in Honor Flight—well, it makes all the effort that you put into something like this worth it, and then some,” he told Time Magazine.
Stars and Stripes Honor Flight shared this statement:
“Joe Demler’s perseverance as a Nazi prisoner of war during WWII, and his tireless efforts to raise funds for Stars and Stripes Honor Flights, have been inspirational to many. He has had a profound impact on the lives of many local veterans, and will be sorely missed.”