Family comes together for unique 85th birthday celebration

Photo courtesy Riverview Gardens

One local family isn’t letting quarantine stop them from celebrating a milestone birthday and they’re hoping to inspire others to do the same.

The family of Philomene Pelcz got together in Chatham on Wednesday afternoon to throw a non-traditional party for her 85th birthday.

Pelcz is currently a resident at Riverview Gardens nursing home. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, her family wasn’t allowed to enter the facility to celebrate, so they decided to take the party to the parking lot.

Pelcz’s four children and their spouses hosted a “parking lot parade.” According to her oldest daughter, Mary Elizabeth Ashton, the idea was a complete surprise to Pelcz.

“She was up on the fourth floor with her window open and we sang happy birthday to her. We had balloons and banners, stuff like that. She could hear us singing happy birthday and we talked to her on the phone at the same time,” explained Ashton.

The family hasn’t been able to see Pelcz in person since the pandemic started over a month ago. According to Ashton, Pelcz has been feeling the impacts of having to stay inside.

“My mom is having cabin fever really bad. She misses going shopping, going out for lunch and breakfast and doing things,” said Ashton. “She misses her whole family.”

Ashton said the group was inspired by similar drive-by style birthday events that have taken place across the municipality and knew the birthday was too big of a milestone to miss.

Now, the family hopes their story inspires others to think outside the box when it comes to celebrations during quarantine, especially for senior citizens.

“Older people don’t use the technology. They don’t use fancy phones and the tablets. But people should make an effort to do things visually with them,” said Ashton. “They can still see whats going on. You just have to let all the seniors know we still love them.”