World War II Navy veteran Joe Albanese never doubted he would celebrate his 100th birthday this September — even when the coronavirus pandemic turned the nation upside down.
Thursday morning, his family, friends, and fellow veterans threw a parade and socially distanced party worthy of the fearless warrior who once disabled bombs on an aircraft carrier.
“When the pandemic hit, my grandfather said, don’t worry. Everthing’s going to be OK. Family comes first, and I’ll see you on the other side,” Albanese’s granddaughter Jessica Jannace told the Herald.
Albanese talked often about how his own father lived to be 101, and over the past several months, he reassured his family members he would be cutting cake on this day.
“Through all these visits, meeting with him outside, talking to him, we knew he needed to celebrate somehow because he’s been waiting for this day for so long,” Jannaci said.
Joe’s family gathered outside Brightview Assisted Living in Arlington with signs and balloons, joined by veterans from surrounding towns.
“It’s quite an honor,” his younger brother, Vin Albanese, said. He called his brother a “mentor” and “frequent teacher.”
The vet walked out to the party in a mask and a shirt that read, “Not everyone looks this good at 100 years young.” Local municipal departments surprised him with a lively parade of fire trucks, police cars and friends who waved through their windows and delivered giant birthday cards.
“How lucky can you get?” Joe asked everyone, before cutting into an enormous cake.
Albanese served aboard the USS Ranger towards the end of the Second World War. After serving, he went on to marry and start the family that he credits with keeping him young after a century of life.
Granddaughter Jessica, 35, said she thinks he reached the milestone through grit and fortitude.
“I honestly think it’s hard work. He did everything with his two hands; he kept busy. He was always busy, active and doing things with family,” she said.
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