The Hallowell Police and Fire departments lead a parade Friday around the driveway of Hillside Manor in Hallowell to celebrate Gloria Carey’s 93rd birthday. She watched from the first floor bay window. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

HALLOWELL — A pandemic is a bad time to have a birthday, but with the help of creative family members and area first responders, Gloria Carey’s 93rd birthday was still special.

Angela Carey, left, is reflected in a bay window Friday as she reaches out to her mother, Gloria Carey, during a 93rd birthday celebration at Hillside Manor in Hallowell. Friends and family weren’t allowed to visit inside because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Hallowell Police and Fire departments led a parade of about 25 cars that Gloria Carey watched through the window. After family and friends parked their cars they held signs and stood outside, six-feet apart, and sang “Happy Birthday.” Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

Carey celebrated her birthday Friday from the window of the Hillside Terrace on Warren Street, with a 25-vehicle parade, featuring Hallowell emergency response vehicles and those of her family. She said she couldn’t have had a better birthday under the circumstances.

“That was very, very special; I don’t know as I deserved all of that,” Carey said. “I think I had a lot of nice people there and they were all good friends of mine.”

The parade was organized by her daughters, Ramona Venskus and Angela Carey, who were forced to get creative since the coronavirus outbreak led to restricted visitation at the home. Despite the conditions, Venskus said this parade is the “ultimate act of love,” as it keeps Gloria Carey safe and shows her family’s love for her.

“We’re just going to try and make it as precious as we can,” Venskus said. “Our mother is very near and dear to us, and if this makes her smile and makes her day it’s worth it.”

As the vehicles drove by, Gloria Carey was visible from the road through a window. The visitors displayed posters and sang “Happy Birthday” to her while she donned a smile.

The parade isn’t the only surprise for Gloria. Her family is also delivering a brand new Volkswagen Jetta to her. Venskus said her mother’s current car, a 1988 Toyota, can’t be driven too far in its current condition.

“She likes to go places and she doesn’t want to worry about the car breaking,” Venskus said. “Her walker will fit in the back. She’s going to love it.”

Gloria Carey said the Toyota still runs fine, but she was happy to get a new car.

“I love it,” she said. “I like a VW.”

The parade could be a moment to smile in what’s been a difficult year for the Carey family. Gloria’s son Jack was found dead in September at his mother’s West Gardiner home after suffering a heart attack. On top of that loss, Gloria has been unable to leave the nursing home during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Being in lockdown has been horrible,” Venskus said. “She couldn’t even leave her room in the nursing home.”

“Her friend calls her the roadrunner because she likes to go, go, go all the time,” Angela Carey said, adding that she often brings her mother to her West Gardiner home to spend a few days.

Flor Merritt, the administrator at Hillside Terrace, said the parade came a little after 1 p.m., which was the set time for Angela Carey to meet her mother, and Gloria was getting impatient.

“We would say she was coming,” Merritt said. “It was bigger than that. It was really nice and it was really sweet.”

Hallowell fire Chief Jim Owens said the request for a fire department escort was “no big deal.” He said it’s important for the public to see the fire department during the outbreak, with the added bonus of making Gloria Carey’s day with the parade.

“We’re still here and working; we’re being careful and socially conscious, Owens said. “We feel bad for the people in the old folks’ homes.”


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