‘He had happy tears’: Family, strangers hold drive-by birthday party for WWII vet

‘Those are the first happy tears that he’s had in a while’

BLACKSBURG, Va. – People with birthdays approaching and other celebrations coming up are definitely feeling the impact of the coronavirus shut downs.

We’re not supposed to gather in large groups right now, as the virus could spread and hurt someone, which meant a local World War II veteran wouldn’t be able to see his family on his 96th birthday, including his great-grandchildren.

“I thought, well, let’s just have them ride their bikes by and we’ll wave and say, ‘Happy birthday,'” said his granddaughter, Amy Gray.

But then Gray had a bigger idea.

“It kept kind of festering in my brain. I just thought we’d make it a bigger deal,” Gray said.

So she took her idea for a drive-by birthday parade to Facebook. She wasn’t prepared for the response.

“By Sunday afternoon, people were sending me pictures of, like, banners they had made and one family that I didn’t know asked what his favorite song was,” Gray said.

Gray called Blacksburg police to see if they would send someone. They sent four officers, enough to both lead and follow the procession and shut down intersections.

Gray’s grandfather was surprised when they asked him to sit outside.

“...I’m just gonna drive by with the kids. They just want to see your face and wave,” Gray said.

Gray’s grandfather was even more surprised by what he saw: kids on bikes and 15 cars plus police cars. There were friends and total strangers, standing 6-feet apart to wish him a happy birthday.

“He had happy tears. And those are the first happy tears that he’s had in a while,” Gray said.

And Gray’s advice, who put this all together, in spite of the times?advice from xx who put this together in spite of the times? Find pieces of joy every day. And if you can’t, maybe you can be that joy.

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