Louise Swope was just expecting a few people to help her celebrate her 90th birthday on May 26.
She sat in the backyard of her Shippensburg home, enjoying some shade, waiting to greet some of the expected guests at 7 p.m. What she didn’t know was while she was in the backyard, there were decorations already set up under a tent out front, and a crowd of family, friends and members of the First Church of God gathering in a nearby parking lot to form a drive-by surprise birthday parade.
Swope grew up on a farm in Spring Run. She worked at the former Stanley Co. in Chambersburg, Beistle Co. in Shippensburg and at a Howard Johnson’s Restaurant on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
She met her future husband, Myle, while working at Howard Johnson’s, and they were married on Feb. 23, 1949. They had three children: Jerry of Shippensburg, Kim of Marysville and Tina of Tennessee. Sadly, Myles passed away on their 50th anniversary in 1999. Louise has lived with Jerry and her daughter-in-law, Wilma, for the past 13 years.
Jerry and Wilma brought Louise to the door in her Birthday Girl hat and sash, and she was pleasantly surprised by what awaited her outside.
“I’m a sweet 90!” she exclaimed.
Beaming, she sat down under the tent that was decorated with balloons and cards. Then she looked to her left, and saw a fire engine heading down the road with its lights activated, followed by a great number of vehicles, many decorated with signs.
Participants drove past, blowing their horns, waving and yelling, “Happy Birthday,” to the happy birthday girl. She received another surprise when the parade looped back around to pass her a second time.
“I didn’t know about this parade, I’m really surprised,” she said.
The parade was organized by Jerry, Wilma and members of the First Church of God’s Ladies in Step Bible Group.
Her daughter, Kim, was also able to attend. Tina was unable to make it.
After the parade, everyone came to the front of the house while practicing social distancing, some holding signs and wishing her a Happy Birthday. The group then sang three gospel songs followed by “Happy Birthday.”
Louise then received some more cards and a small cake to ring in her milestone celebration.
What is her advice on living a healthy 90 years?
“God, family and friends,” she said.
A large sign made by her family beautifully summed up her life:
“‘90 Years’ equals 1,080 months of happiness, 4,696 weeks of love with God, 32,823 days of wisdom, 788,952 hours of laughter, one wonderful husband, three incredible children, three amazing grandchildren, and hundreds of terrific family and friends, and nine decades of memories.”
Happy Birthday, Louise!